Birds, Usuthu stuck in NFD twi­light zone

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTH­OWA­GAE dmoth­owa­gae@city­

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


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