Reflects on a fall that seemed to be a long time coming
This week marked the end of an era as Moroka Swallows bid farewell to the Absa Premiership. Daniel Mothowagae
Swallows boss Leon Prins said they were “sad and annoyed that this [relegation] happened, but nobody is giving up – we’ll fight back”.
His comments were made as one of Soweto’s oldest clubs started preparing for a new life in the National First Division (NFD).
“We have a board meeting on Tuesday to plan the way forward. That’s all I can say at the moment.”
The one-time Beautiful Birds closed the chapter on their free fall this season with a 1-0 defeat that shot Jomo Cosmos back to the Premiership.
“I have mixed emotions. My heart is sore for Swallows; I wish they could have stayed, but this is the nature of football,” said Cosmos coach Jomo Sono after his side swapped league status with Swallows on Wednesday.
Sono also made it clear he would miss nothing about the lower league: “The NFD is not a nice place to be; we lost a lot of money.”
In the NFD, Swallows will have to adjust to drawing a R380 000 monthly grant – a far cry from the Premiership’s R1.5 million. They will also have to assemble a new-look side to conform with the NFD rule of fielding three Under-23 players.
Despite the misery and hurt of relegation, Swallows are certainly reaping what they have been sowing for a long time. The demotion should not be too much of a surprise.
One of the club’s former players, who asked for anonymity, this week remarked that “Swallows were relegated the moment Leon Prins took over as the new boss [in 1999]”.
It is not the first time that Prins has been on the receiving end of such comments – originating both from fans and the club’s minority shareholders – in his 16 years at the helm of the club.
“This club was ruined in the 1990s,” Prins told City Press in a recent interview.
Swallows have been on a knife’s edge since the 2008/09 season.
Two seasons ago, the Birds finished three points above a playoff spot after managing miraculous survivals in 2011 and 2009
This season Swallows were given a stay of execution via the promotion play-offs, but the inevitable eventually had to happen.
Swallows were one of the worst teams in the Premiership. With AmaZulu, they did not move above 13th place prior to their demotion.
It was not just about losing matches but the manner in which they succumbed to those defeats amid the battle for survival.
The Birds threw away their leads on three occasions during their last four games of the season, dropping nine points out of a possible 12.
By winning just three matches in 13 outings in 2015, the tale of the Dube Birds is one of an established club plummeting to an all-time low.
In 18 years of the Premier Soccer League, Swallows have won just three cups and failed to deliver a league title.
These statistics pale into insignificance when compared with Swallows’ illustrious Soweto neighbours, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
The Birds lose their status as being one of the founding clubs of the PSL who’ve never left the elite league. Now only Chiefs, Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns have not been relegated in 18 years of the domestic league.
From being the league’s runnersup just three seasons ago to secondtier league campaigners next year, no one can predict for how long the Beautiful Birds will have to make the NFD their nesting grounds.
Eleventh. Avoided a play-off spot (15th) by four points, but went on to win theth NedbankNdb k Cup Captain Siyabonga Nomvete