“Abuyile amaSwaiswai,” a grey-haired gentleman with a Moroka Swallows t-shirt that had seen better days shouted as he entered this venue.
He might have left here disappointed after Swallows lost to Maritzburg United but his soul was at peace due to the gallant fight his team put to take a club two divisions higher than them to extra-time.
That grey-haired gentleman’s joyous spirit made him enter the stadium with an extra bounce in his step even though age rudely reminded him that he was no spring chicken. But at least he didn’t need a walking stick like others. He was part of a number of pensioners who waddled into this venue to see their team fly with the big boys once again after two disastrous seasons that saw their wings clipped from the Premier Division and the National First Division in successive campaigns.
The t-shirts Swallows’ fans wore here made it feel like a trip back in time, a place where most of them would like to remain as their team flew high in the 80s and 90s with a sprinkling of success in the 2000s before they took a dramatic nosedive.
This match was a perfect opportunity for the Dube Birds’ supporters to forget the pain and numerous heartaches they have suffered at the hands of their favourite club.
They were even prepared to let it slide that this wasn’t technically their club because of how much they have suffered in the past. Swallows FC is part of an ambitious project led by Gauteng MEC of Education Panyaza Lesufi to revive the real Moroka Swallows.
Swallows FC use a different name and logo in order not to be strangled by the debt Swallows incurred in their downfall to the amateur ranks.
Once their finances are in order, they plan to go back to being Moroka Swallows and rightfully claim the history of the 70-year-old Soweto giant that’s the third most successful team in the history of the country’s premier knockout competition, behind their neighbours Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
After a slow-start that saw the hosts trail 75 seconds into the match through Andrea Fillecia, Swallows found their feet and this venue that has become synonymous with pain for the last couple of years turned into a festive place.
Old limbs were stretched to their maximum after Tshepo Mashigo levelled matters. The home fans found their voices and the Swallows FC players found their confidence, looking better than the second-string Team of Choice Fadlu Davids fielded.
Maritzburg were too casual, thinking that they would easily wipe the floor with the ABC Motsepe League side.
That confidence was backed by the fact that they took the lead without breaking a sweat. That casual approach led to complacency while Swallows grew in confidence with each minute.
In the second half of regulation play they pinned the side from the KwaZulu-Natal capital to their own half for the better part of it. Players like Mashigo, Joseph Banyane and goalkeeper Vusumuzi Ntikinga marketed themselves in front of a bigger crowd with the match beamed across the country.
But their inexperience caught up with them, allowing Fillecia to complete his brace and Mxolisi Kunene to add the third to take the Team of Choice to the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup.