Mbali Mokoko: Journey to Swaziland
Written by: Mbali Mokoko
The beautiful and mountainous Kingdom of Swaziland welcomed Bafana Bafana for an international friendly against Swaziland. Having never been there before, I’d always pictured Swaziland as an indescribable and mysterious place, which was until yesterday. It just feels like another part of Mzansi that I had never been to, the only difference being that I used my passport to access it. The lush green mountains and warm weather, even in the evening was great, perfect for football. My only concern was that the lights at the Somhlolo Stadium were a bit dim. I don’t mean to compare, but go to any ground used for PSL fixtures in South Africa at night and you’d swear its midday. The 20 000 capacity stadium was about 95% full with many fans wearing Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns replica jerseys. The South African influence was clear to see. As much as the supporters were cheering for their national team during the warm-ups, they also cheered loudly for Bafana and some even went as far as wearing Bafana jerseys. Most spectators immediately picked me out as a foreigner because of my dress code – I was wearing shorts and a Kaya FM shirt. As the referee blew his opening whistle, a few bad apples just skipped over the fence and came to sit in the media stand. Eish! Was I going to relive the scenes in Egypt at the CAF Champions League final where Al Ahly fans took over the stand forcing CAF officials to move us media for our own safety?
For some reason I expected music from the likes of Sipho Makabanes to be bellowed from the speakers in the stands ahead of the match. Haaikona! DJ Cndos yamnandi and many other South African tunes got the crowd dancing here. I’m at home; maybe Swaziland should just be another province in South Africa and let’s get rid of the administrative stuff of passports and clearances at the border. Some Swazi Nationals at the border were even saying Bafana was guaranteed a win before I had even gotten close to the Somhlolo Stadium. Wow, they even sing our national anthem. Football culture is the same everywhere-it’s always song and dance. The Sihlangu se Mnikati national team held its own. They had some decent players. I even spotted Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt. He was hunting for some of the player that knocked his team out of the CAF Confederations Cup last month? It was goalless at halftime. Sihlangu’s attacks were pretty impressive with the players spurred on by the partisan crowd. But they never really threatened Itumeleng Khune in goals, who was making a return to the national team for the 1st time in over a year. In contrast, Bafana’s attacks were few and far between. The Swazis play the same football we have come to know of from coach Shakes Mashaba. Is this perhaps because he has coached the Swazi national team before? They were a well-drilled outfit. Many thought the next morning’s headlines would read: “Bafana runs riot in Mbabane against the Swazi” but at this stage Bafana would do well just to win the match. But two goals within the first ten minutes of the second half silenced the almost 20 000 people that had come to watch the game.
My only disappointment from the Swazi is the drinking. I’m not used to seeing people drinking Ingudu (750ml brown bottles of beer). There should be stricter measures against this. Is it because no incidents have been reported before? When Bafana’s second goal from the boot of Thabo Mnyamane went in, some drowned their sorrows even further. Young men were drinking some liquid called Magadza. I’m told it is made of Marula. Its effects look potent because all those that were having the drink started sweating and some even took their clothes off. Swaziland played well in the middle of the 2nd stanza which saw them pull back a goal. But Mandla Masango blasted home from close range to make it 3-1 to Bafana and head into the game against Nigeria in Mbombela with a convincing win under their belts. Although it was a tale of two halves, the score is not a true reflection of the game. Bafana were more clinical with their finishing. And if you consider the handful of new face that Bra Shakes gave a run, this Bafana team will do well in the near future. Goodbye to scenic Swaziland. The only thing I missed about Mzansi is our hospitality. We should teach the Swazis how better to respect their guests.