Keep an eye on those underdogs
JOHANNESBURG - Following TS Galaxy’s surprise Nedbank Cup victory last season, the First Division play-offs for the competition last weekend piqued my interest.
Which of the Glad Championship sides would remain in line to test themselves against the might of the Absa Premiership clubs, I wondered?
Would TS Galaxy prove that their success was no fluke by qualifying? After all, their owner Tim Sukazi was actually of the view his team should have got a bye into the first round proper - a statement he repeated after they won their play-off.
I was particularly keen to see if Moroka Swallows would make it into the first round proper. What with the club eager to make a return to the elite league, surely nothing would prove their readiness better than them getting to play against the likes of Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns.
But alas, the once Beautiful Birds did not make the cut.
This though is not how it has always been. Swallows have generally had a good run in the country’s premier club knockout competition.
Back in 1983, the great Joel Ace Mnini mesmerised Witbank Black Aces in the final to help the Birds get crowned champions. The competition was called the Mainstay Cup back then.
No doubt Panyaza Lesufi - the politician who played a big role in resurrecting the club - has dreams of seeing the current crop of Swallows players emulating that team.
When the Mainstay sponsorship ended, FNB took over and the competition was named the BobSave Super Bowl. Just as they had done with the Mainstay, Swallows engraved their name on the trophy. And whereas there were many who felt Swallows should not have beaten Aces in 1983, there could be no doubting their worth as 1989 champions.
After the final against Sundowns ended 1-1 and both sides seeing red - Andy Censig and Andries Chitja were sent off - the replay in midweek was a slaughter. The Birds smashed the Brazilians 5-1 in arguably one of the most one-sided finals in history.
The Birds won the trophy again in 1991 when they beat Jomo Cosmos.
FNB was later replaced by Absa as sponsors of the competition and Swallows were due to win this one too - this time via a 3-1 success over Manning Rangers.
When Nedbank took over as financial backers, I remember telling a friend that Swallows will win this one too.
They duly did at a packed Rand Stadium in 2009 via a 1-0 success over then National First Division (NFD) side AmaTuks. I remember how my son Julio excitedly screamed ‘dad they called my name’ when the stadium announcer called out the name of the Swallows coach - Julio Leal.
They will not be adding a second Nedbank Cup title this season. But what chance another lower division side emulating TS Galaxy?