Swallows in NFD free-fall

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Founded in 1947 and one of the oldest professional football clubs in South Africa, Swallows went down for the first time last season and are now in danger of consecutive relegation and dropping to the third tier of SA football. Before Chiefs were born in 1970, the original Soweto Derby was between Pirates and Swallows.

Veteran striker Siyabonga “Bhele” Nomvethe turned out for all three Soweto giants and after eight-and-a-half years in the maroon-and-white jersey, it’s understandable when he refers to Swallows as “my club” even though he plays for home-town side AmaZulu.

To score against Swallows in only his second appearance for AmaZulu last weekend was difficult to stomach, especially as the goal contributed to a home defeat that left the Birds at the foot of the National First Division (NFD) standings. “I was not happy to beat my club but there was nothing I could do. I’m at a new team and I have to make sure we do well because we are desperate to collect points,” said Nomvethe.

The 38-year-old former international forward’s spell with the Birds was his longest at any club. He has a soft spot for them and “hopes they will survive”.

“I have lots of emotions. I’m very disappointed to see their situation but I think they will sort it out. Right now you can’t write them off. They have an opportunity, with 14 matches left, and I think they’ll come up with something,” added Nomvethe.

Former stars Calvin Petersen and Mlungisi Ngubane agreed with Nomvethe that Swallows have enough time to rescue themselves, provided they solve their boardroom issues. Late last year there were reports of players going on strike over non-payment of salaries.

Swallows have been bedevilled by ownership squabbles going back decades. Sporadic successes, such as winning the MTN8 in 2012 and finishing league runners-up in 2011/12, masked these problems. Until recently they were managed through “remote control” by Cape Town-based chairman Leon Prins, while under the ownership of late German tycoon Dieter Bock who reportedly never visited the club.

“To see this club going from the top to fighting relegation in the First Division is very sad,” said Petersen, who starred for Swallows from 1989 to 1994. “I watched a few games and it’s difficult to say what’s wrong because you don’t know what’s going on inside. I tried to call a few people involved with the club to see if I could help out voluntarily, but nobody answered or called me back,” said Petersen, who coaches youth sides in Pietermaritzburg.

“It’s possible to turn it around. Swallows and another team (Mthatha Bucks) are on 11 points at the bottom, with the next team (FC Cape Town) on 12 points, so it’s not an impossible situation provided they start now.”

When a PSL side drops to the NFD, the other clubs are extra-motivated to beat them, said veteran coach Ngubane. And Swallows have additional financial problems to deal with. “Swallows are struggling because of financial issues. At the moment their brand is down. If you bring in players and you can’t pay them, that is a problem,” said Ngubane.

Unless the Birds act quickly they could follow clubs like African Wanderers, Bush Bucks and Hellenic, who disappeared after relegation from the NFD, warned Ngubane. - Saturday Star

Original source: Swallows in NFD free-fall

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