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Once again an unwanted picture of Eswatini football was painted this past Saturday when ugly scenes of violence were witnessed at Mavuso Sports Centre.

This was during the Hhohho Super League play-offs decider between winners Pigg’s Peak Rangers and Sidwashini United who blew away a 2-0 lead from the first leg to lose 4-0 on the day and 4-2 on aggregate. In a strong-worded statement, the Hhohho Regional Football Association (HRFA) led by former Eswatini Football Association (EFA) Vice President Comfort Shongwe has come out to condemn the violence. “The HRFA Executive Committee wishes to state that when staging the game in question, it informed all the necessary stakeholders and further requested support of the essential services (security and medical support”.


“It is further disheartening to learn that club players and officials are those who were physically assaulting and insulting the match officials,” reads the statement from HRFA.
These are believed to be preliminary findings, as a comprehensive report of the match officials will provide a better picture. In less than eight months, this was a fourth skirmish at the venue and the three others involved Premier League sides Mbabane Swallows and Mbabane Highlanders fans, who also refused to accept results and decisions of referees.  Some will think we are an angry nation due to socio-economic challenges and the anger has started to spill out onto the soccer venues.  I beg to differ. The cause for concern here is the safety issue.  It is still not clear if the individuals carrying the guns during the game are police officers from the Crime Investigation Department (CID) or teams’ officials. If those were teams’ officials, then it would be very unfortunate.  The bigger picture here is Mavuso Sports Centre’s capacity to hold high-profile matches remains questionable. It has been said several times that without proper barriers to separate fans from the technical area, it is always a bomb waiting to explode. This puts government under pressure to avail Somhlolo National Stadium whose renovations have taken forever. There will be no excuse for restricting football at Somhlolo beyond August this year.  We demand monthly updates on the upgrades and the possible dates of reopening the venue to the public. Allowing Easter Services back in April this year suggested that the venue was almost complete.


It is high time swift decisions are taken to ensure safety of emaSwati at stadia. It is embarrassing for referees to always sprint for dear life after every high-profile game at Mavuso.  Inasmuch as this is generally a good ‘home’ for sports, it cannot continue hosting big matches like the derby, finals and play-offs deciders until proper barriers are in place.
With that said, the perpetrators of the violence have no place in Eswatini football.  They deserve a harsh sentence for bringing football into disrepute. At a time when there is a serious shortage of sponsorships, the football brand needs all the protection it can get. On top of fines, as per the rules, the culprits who will be positively identified for causing the commotion should be banned from coming anywhere near a football field. Just because they are small teams from the country’s football third-tier does not mean the sentence should be lighter. Focus should be on the offence. For a country that struggles with soccer match venues, we should do our best to appreciate the little we have. Imagine if the Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) can wake up one day and decide to close the venue to football, due to these unending barbaric scenes. So the message to the disciplinary committee is loud and clear – the perpetrators should fry.
 NB: Comments are most welcome at ashmondnzima85@gmail.com