Big dreams for minnows
Newly promoted NFD sides Mbombela United and Mthatha Bucks tell Daniel Mothowagae about this season’s plans
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.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK Mbombela United’s Siyathemba Mnguni (left). His side won the ABC Motsepe League crown over Mthatha Bucks last weekend