I don’t want to believe that Moroka Swallows are no longer a professional side. I don’t want to believe that the team I love so dearly have been relegated from the country’s third tier.
But what does that help?
Fact is the once Beautiful Birds of Dube are on a freefall. Actually they’ve been on a freefall for a long time now. And what is happening to them has been inevitable since that splendid 2011/12 season when Swallows so nearly won the championship.
I remember that season vividly. Moreso that final Saturday when those of us who’ve always supported the maroon and white clad club dared to dream; when we dared to believe that, finally, our club could be crowned league champions.
I’d long graduated from being a reporter then, leading a team of very able and talented soccer writers. But that week I insisted on being the one to cover Swallows’ final match at Maritzburg United in the hope that I’d witness history unfold.
That their being crowned champions dependent not only on them beating the 'Team of Choice' but also on Orlando Pirates tumbling at Golden Arrows didn’t seem to matter. I, and no doubt all Swallows fans, believed a miracle could happen.
After all we had on our bench a coach (Gordon Igesund) who had delivered championships to lesser clubs (Manning Rangers and Santos). Prior to getting our club so close to glory, the multiple league-winning coach had saved Swallows from what appeared certain relegation the season before. Surely we had good reason to believe he can deliver the silverware?
I should have known though the dream would remain just that from early in the morning when the Gautrain to OR Tambo was delayed. I missed my flight to Durban but got one that still provided me with a chance to make it for the match. But then an accident on the highway forced me into a long detour to Maritzburg. I listened to the match on the radio as I drove, and arrived at the Harry Gwala Stadium at the final whistle. Sure Swallows won. But so did Pirates.
Igesund, who had came close to achieving the near impossible with a typically highly experienced squad teeming with golden oldies, left the club. Zeca Marques won the MTN8 the next season, but that was but just a false dawn – from there on it was all downhill.
Consecutive relegations from the elite league, then the National First Division, and this past weekend from the ABC Motsepe League, became the logical direction for a poorly administered team that failed to see their shortfalls thanks to a fortuitous splendid season that nearly delivered the ultimate title. Not that Swallows’ demise started that season, for the club has had it bad for a long time.
But as they disappear into oblivion, I’m sure all “Members” – as us Swallows fans refer to each other – will hang on to the good old glorious memories of cup triumphs: the 1975, 1979 and 2012 Top 8; the 1978 Sales House Cup; 1983 Mainstay Cup; 1989 & 1991 BobSave Super Bowl; 2004 Absa Cup; 2009 Nedbank Cup.... And then there’s that greatest of matches ever played on South African soil, the 5-5 Mainstay Cup semifinal draw with Kaizer Chiefs in 1980.
Who can ever forget the many stars – Ace Mnini, Aubrey Makgopela, Vader Mophosho, Andries Maseko, Chippa Molatedi; Andries Mpondo, Jokhonia Cibi to mention but a few – who have donned the famous maroon and white over the years.
It really is hard to take in. But it is true. Moroka Swallows are no more...