Mbabane: Playing in the elite league is proving to be no bed of roses for some teams who are having it tough to compete, ending up being relegated to the lower divisions.
After failing to escape the relegation axe some teams are able to regroup and bounce back only for others to plunge down into lower leagues and disappear into oblivion. The MTN Premier League currently comprise of 14 teams and from these teams only six have been able to win the league championship at least in the past 20 years.
Mbabane Swallows, Mbabane Highlanders, Manzini Wanderers, Young Buffaloes, Royal Leopard, and Green Mamba remain the only teams to have laid a hand on the league championship in the past two decades.
Even though they have been eluded by the MTN Premier League since its inception in 2002, capital city giants Highlanders won back-to-back Castle Lager League titles in 1999/00 and 2000/01 in their last league triumph. Other teams that won the league thereafter include Manzini Wanderers, Mhlambanyatsi Rovers, Mbabane Swallows, Leopard, Buffaloes and Green Mamba.
However, Rovers failed to sustain their elite league status as they were subsequently relegated some years later and disappeared, leaving history behind. They seem to have taken the same route taken by XI Men in Flight who sunk into oblivion, albeit having won the league title back in 1994 and 1996.
After spending some years in top flight football, the then Siteki side struggled and were relegated, much to the disappointment of their hordes of loyal supporters mostly from the east.
Milling Hot Spurs, who won back to back league titles in 1971 and 1972, only returned to the premier league this season after some decades of absence, and so is Mhlume Peacemakers who won the league in 1981. The latter only returned last season after buying the status of Matsapha United.
Denver Sundowns, who are surely having the worst season, is another side which won the league title twice, in 1989 and 1990. And it is now 29 years in waiting for the ‘Kappa Boys’. Besides failing to win the league, some promoted league dismally fail to cope in the premier league.
One will recall how Shiselweni used produce teams to play in the premier league only to find the going very tough, and guess what they moved in a fast pace back to lower leagues. Gege Happy Stars, the team which introduced the likes of Wonder Nhleko and Smolly Tshabalala in premier league, left a worst history as they were relegated after attaining only one point the whole season.
Lavumisa FC is another team from the south which made a stop in the elite league but failed to stay.
Another promising side, Nkomanzi Sundowns led by businessman Charles ‘Mashesha’ Nhlengetfwa, disappointed many when they disappeared from elite league football.
Mbabane City and Red Lions, are recent teams which have kissed premier league a goodbye and it proved very complex for the latter who have since been disbanded following their relegation from the National First Division last season.
Meanwhile for City they live to see another season as they are currently campaigning in the Swazi Trac Hhohho Super League. Malanti Chiefs, who also enjoyed sizeable number of years in the premier league, are currently undergoing a lean spell as they are rooted in the basement and are sure of an axe from elite football. This is another ambitious side which gave many teams a run for their money especially in the Eswatini Bank Cup.
They were once runners up in the league. Denver Sundowns is facing the same predicament if the current log standings are anything to go by. Many great sides have had it tough in the elite league which have proven to be not a walk in the park.
The league is financially backed by giant mobile network company, MTN Eswatini who pumped in a sum of E18 million to be spread over three years.
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