Big dreams for min­nows

Newly pro­moted NFD sides Mbombela United and Mthatha Bucks tell Daniel Mothowagae about this sea­son’s plans

CityPress - - Sport -

Sib­lings Sikhum­buzo and Oupa Mat­se­bula have big am­bi­tions for their five-year-old club Mbombela United.

Ting­wenyama (siSwati for “lions”), as United are known to their fol­low­ers, gained pro­mo­tion to the Na­tional First Di­vi­sion (NFD) af­ter win­ning their group.

They beat Mthatha Bucks 2-1 in the fi­nal of the Safa/ABC Mot­sepe League na­tional play-offs in Kim­ber­ley last week­end.

Be­sides the na­tional crown, they also claimed the R1 mil­lion prize.

Sikhum­buzo – who turns 50 later this year – and Oupa (45) have al­ready es­tab­lished them­selves as shrewd busi­ness­men in their home province of Mpumalanga through their com­muter trans­port and com­mer­cial prop­erty busi­nesses.

“We are go­ing to ap­ply busi­ness prin­ci­ples in the run­ning of this team,” said Sikhum­buzo.

“Among other changes, we are go­ing to rene­go­ti­ate the salaries of our play­ers now that they are in a big­ger league. We are look­ing be­yond am­a­teur football now.”

Sikhum­buzo played for Nel­spruit Black Swal­lows with his brother dur­ing their younger days.

The broth­ers be­lieve football runs in their veins. “We grew up in a house that was op­po­site a soc­cer ground – the KaNya­mazane Sta­dium. Later, our late fa­ther bought a club, West Ham FC, and a bus for us,” said Sikhum­buzo.

In­ter­est­ingly, the KaNya­mazane venue will stage United’s home matches in the new NFD sea­son. They host Thanda Royal Zulu in their open­ing game on Au­gust 22.

Sikhum­buzo said the club would also get a mar­ket­ing com­pany to pro­mote the brand.

The Mat­se­bu­las said they would re­tain 90% of the squad that has brought them suc­cess.

“We will also give our coach [Mfan­im­phela Maseko] a chance to prove him­self in the NFD.”

United have al­ready turned to the Mbombela mu­nic­i­pal­ity and the sports MEC for as­sis­tance.

“They have com­mit­ted their sup­port. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity will back us with the use of the [KaNya­mazane] sta­dium, while we wait to meet the MEC when

he re­turns from over­seas this week.”

United join Wit­bank Spurs as Mpumalanga’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the NFD ( see box). Mthatha Bucks

The pro­mo­tion of Mthatha Bucks means the Eastern Cape will have a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the first time in the NFD since Black­burn Rovers were rel­e­gated two sea­sons ago.

Bucks owner Simthem­bile Nt­lantsana said they were al­ready plan­ning for life in the NFD and were on the verge of se­cur­ing the use of the Mthatha Sta­dium as their of­fi­cial home ground. They host Vasco da Gama in their open­ing fix­ture on Au­gust 23.

“We want to re­main in Mthatha and have al­ready en­gaged the lo­cal gov­ern­ment to as­sist us in se­cur­ing the venue,” said Nt­lantsana, a prac­tis­ing at­tor­ney.

“Our short-term ob­jec­tive is to keep our sta­tus in the NFD while the ul­ti­mate goal is to cam­paign in the premier di­vi­sion.”

Bucks have al­ready parted ways with coach Julius Dube, who guided them to pro­mo­tion, but Nt­lantsana re­fused to di­vulge any de­tails.

“We are en­gaged in a se­ries of meet­ings to come up with a re­place­ment. We are also look­ing at re­in­forc­ing the team,” he said.

Nt­lantsana said he was the sole di­rec­tor when he had bought the club at the be­gin­ning of last year, but he has now joined forces with the pre­vi­ous owner, Philisa Mn­qandi.

Mn­qandi is the for­mer di­rec­tor of one-time Transkei pow­er­house Um­tata Bush Bucks.

Nt­lantsana was quick to dis­pel any per­cep­tions that the NFD rook­ies were a re­vival of the old brand with the same name that used to cam­paign in the elite league.

The Sturu Pasiya-owned Bucks were rel­e­gated at the end of the 2002/03 sea­son. They re­turned af­ter one sea­son, but were rel­e­gated again at the end of 2005/06 and were then dis­solved.

PHOTO: SAFA

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK Mbombela United’s Siy­ath­emba Mn­guni (left). His side won the ABC Mot­sepe League crown over Mthatha Bucks last week­end

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