Birds, Usuthu stuck in NFD twilight zone
With the National First Division (NFD) marking the halfway mark this weekend, the focus shifts to the struggles of Moroka Swallows and AmaZulu today – and the question of whether South Africa’s fallen giants can awake from their slumber.
The two tradition-steeped clubs are off the pace in the race for promotion, as wins have been few and far between.
Today, Swallows face Milano United at the Athlone Stadium in Cape Town while AmaZulu host Vasco Da Gama at the Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban.
The Soweto and KwaZulu-Natal sides go into these afternoon fixtures chasing a first win in three matches.
Despite their status as being among the country’s oldest and most recognised clubs, it is difficult to locate AmaZulu and Swallows on the 16-club NFD table. Swallows coach Ian Gorowa conceded that a feasible goal would be “just to fight and stay in the NFD”. “Almost everybody knows about the deep internal problems at Swallows, but under the circumstances, the players are doing what they are supposed to do,” said Gorowa.
He said this in reference to the off-field drama that overcame the club over the past few months, where players and staff went unpaid at some point. “Our players honestly deserve a pat on the back because they are really trying to save this club from extinction. Our people must not give up hope; we are not. God will answer our prayers one day.”
Gorowa, who is in his second stint as the coach of the Birds, is hopeful for a positive result against the sixth-placed Milano. Swallows were held by Black Leopards in Dobsonville, Soweto, last weekend on the back of an embarrassing defeat to rookies Mthatha Bucks before the festive break.
By contrast, it’s not all doom and gloom in the Usuthu camp, despite the team having lost their last two fixtures.
“Our next four matches will be crucial, as they will determine whether we’ll be in contention [for promotion] or not,” said AmaZulu coach Steve Barker, who has acquired experienced striker Siyabonga Nomvethe to aid his cause.
“Guiding a big club like AmaZulu is not an easy task, as I carry the hopes of the whole KwaZulu-Natal province. We remain confident that the club will rise again, and we hope it will be immediately [via automatic promotion at the end of the season].”
Based on previous seasons, clubs relegated from the Premiership have struggled to return after being relegated.
Swallows and AmaZulu have already forfeited most of the perks of being in the elite league.
Top-flight status brings with it several financial benefits, including lucrative television deals and hefty monthly grants, plus the opportunity to attract quality players.
The sides, which qualified for the Nedbank Cup last 32 via the NFD qualifiers last month, will face off in Soweto on Saturday in the second round of their league campaign.
MIRACLE WORKER Moroka Swallows coach Ian Gorowa