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Reports suggesting that there might a late MTN Premier League season kick-off again are disturbing.

With major tournaments that include the Ingwenyama Cup set to return this year, there was hope that the Premier League of Eswatini (PLE) would revert to the normal season calendar that starts in August, or at least the first week of September. Indications suggest that it is now nearly impossible to have an early start, as the PLE annual general meeting (AGM) is scheduled for the second week of September. The league cannot kick off until the general assembly is held. In essence, the league might start as late as mid September and take another break for the MoMo Cup.


It is a norm that PLE cannot have its AGM before that of the football mother body. However, reports suggest the Eswatini Football Association (EFA) will have its meeting on the last weekend of this month, with the PLE having theirs at least two weeks later. The delay of the latter is unnecessary. This will not only result in fixture congestion but it will be costly to the club owners.  There are still the Confederation of African Football (CAF) inter-club tournaments matches, Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and World Cup Qualifiers to be played this year. At this rate, the country might end up having the longest preseason and off-season in history. Most teams have already started preseason and it is embarrassing that the tentative kick-off dates for the PLE’s flagship tournament (MTN League) are still unknown. We cannot talk about professionalism when we are still struggling to do the basics. The bigger picture here is that the extended break is becoming too costly for the teams. Most players have already been tied to contracts for the new season. Clubs have to pay players for doing nothing.  


Teams that will not play in this weekend’s Bible Society Mayoral Cup have already been out of action for nearly three months. With some teams’ monthly budget at about E200 000, it is becoming too costly to maintain the clubs at a time when they are not getting the expected extra income from gate takings. The PLE belongs to the clubs and it is high time their interests become prioritised. While the EFA is partly to blame for having its AGM very late, the PLE is off-side by delaying its meeting by a further two weeks. It is like the EFA and the PLE operate in different countries. These are associations that should work in harmony and ensure that their programmes complement each other. After all, they need each other. Without PLE players, there is no Sihlangu. It would have made perfect sense for the EFA to have their AGM at least by the second week of this month. If we are serious about professionalising the league, surely we have to do things better.


In the recent past, there were clashes between the country’s two highest soccer bodies over the release of players to Sihlangu and back to their respective teams. The root cause of that clash was partly the fixture congestion.  A repeat of this is inevitable when it becomes business as usual when there are changes in the season programme. After this past weekend’s special general meeting of the PLE, an unwanted picture was painted. When the PLE Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Makhanya said it was Football Manager Pat Vilakati who can give a clear answer on the league kick-off dates, it gave an impression that the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing. We deserve better and we demand that the schoolboy errors of the past season should not be repeated. This unnecessary and extended break calls for better organisation when it comes to administration of football in the new season.