Mbabane: Eswatini has been blessed with great talent and no wonder, as a footballing country we have exported some of our stars to bigger leagues, notably neighbouring South Africa’s Premier Soccer League.
As football chief Adam ‘Bomber’ Mthethwa would like to say, the mandate of Eswatini Football Association (EFA) is to develop and nature talent from grassroots level for the betterment of national squads and ultimately, the senior national team Sihlangu. Independent News Sports takes you down memory lane, at least from the turn of the New Millennium to come up with the best combined Sihlangu line-up.
See who makes our list in a simple 4-4-2 formation…
Goalkeeper (Sipho ‘Shilton’ Dube)
Since joining the all-conquering Mbabane Highlanders in 1993 from Bhunya Black Aces, ‘Shilton’ established himself as one of the finest short stoppers to represent the country. In an illustrious career that saw him cement the number one position for both club and country through to early 2000s, ‘Shilton’ gets the nod though the likes of Linoh ‘Fresh Prince’ Magagula and later Nhlanhla Gwebu (helping Sihlangu to a COSAFA bronze medal) deserve a mention.
Right back (Bongani ‘Ndezi’ Masangane)
A hard worker who played a starring role at Highlanders before winning a contract with SA’s PSL side Black Leopards is possibly the best right back we have seen in recent history. Coming closest in this selection headache is Sipho ‘One man one Vote’ Dvuba and maybe Sifiso Mabila for his consistent performances.
Left back (Jabulani ‘Codesa’ Maseko)
A problematic position for every Sihlangu coach has always been left back. Against Togo, in Sihlangu’s biggest win in 2008, Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba started with Themba Manana, replacing him before the breather for a right footed Absalom ‘Absa’ Dlamini. Raoul Savoy converted destroyer Mxolisi ‘Stopper’ Mthethwa to this position during his time and evidently, ‘Codesa’ is the best we have had over the years. Young Buffaloes’ Wandile Maseko and Sanele Mkhweli of Mbabane Swallows come closest but neither has been consistent enough to claim a starting berth.
Centre back (Jerry ‘Mbazo’ Gamedze)
‘Mbazo’ was every forward nightmare- from biting tackles, high concentration levels and disciplined performances. Modern centre backs should model their game around him. These players played for the batch.
Centre back (Mlungisi ‘Madzala’ Ngubane)
It was just easy for ‘Mbazo’ to pass the Sihlangu captaincy to a younger ‘Madzala’ when his legs could not carry him further. Both had the same attributes and were decent leaders. Possibly this was the best central defence pairing we have seen in the country for the past 20 years.
Defensive midfielder (Mxolisi ‘Stopper’ Mthethwa)
The biggest wonder is how ‘Stopper’ never secured a professional contract outside of the country. He was definitely one of the best players we have produced, performing consistently at the highest level for 20 years. He is also nicknamed ‘the soldier of many wars’. It is a pitty decent players like Maxwell ‘King Dunga’ Zikalala and Reagan Stenkaamp played in his time though the former could be easily utilised further forward.
Right winger (Wonder ‘Samba Jive’ Nhleko)
After recently turning 40, ‘Samba Jive’ is one of the few cream of the crop players still active. After breaking into the scene with his home club Gege Happy Stars, going on to join Denver Sundowns and later SA’s PSL side Black Leopards, he has always been a key figure at Sihlangu over the years.
Left winger (Tony ‘TT’ Tsabedze)
Immediately after winning the 2003/04 MTN League with Mhlambanyatsi Rovers as a young lad, there was no doubt a star was born. With an educated left foot, SA’s Supersport United came knocking and it is safe to say Tony has had an adventurous and interesting career. He is the reigning Eswatini Sports and Recreation Council Sportsman of the Year and that just adds to his overflowing trophy cabinet. He also captained Sihlangu to COSAFA bronze in 2016.
Attacking midfielder (Dennis ‘Yuki’ Masina)
Eswatini has always been blessed with crafty playmakers like Lwazi ‘Zidane’ Maziya and Manqoba ‘Dunga’ Kunene but no one come close to the heights reached by ‘Yuki’. From serious interest from Dutch giants Feyernood, ending up signing for Belgium’s KV Machelen to successful stints with SA’s giants Supersport United and Orlando Pirates, Masina is arguably the best player of his generation. He was named Sihlangu captain a couple of times.
Striker (Sibusiso ‘Spoko’ Dlamini)
‘Spoko’ faces stiff competition from John ‘Junior Shisa’ Mdluli in this team. Countless legends have named ‘Spoko’ as one player they feel never reached his full potential despite stints with big SA clubs like Kaizer Chiefs and Moroka Swallows. Their front partnership with Siza Dlamini will always be remembered for downing Zimbabwe in a COSAFA match back in 2002 in a 2-0 win under the tutulage of the late Dumisa ‘Dodge’ Mahlalela. Both were on target in Harare.
Striker (Siza ‘King Pele’ Dlamini)
After being named in the top 10 list of COSAFA legends, it then becomes crystal clear of Siza’s importance to Sihlangu over the years. The former Mbabane Swallows and Jomo Cosmos striker completes our dream team though Mfanzile ‘Fash’ Dlamini, the best holder of the ball deserves a mention.
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