By Sibongiseni Zondi | 2017-11-14
SOCCER - IT has now been confirmed, Sihlangu will play no match this FIFA week after the National Football Association of Swaziland (NFAS) failed to secure an international friendly for the national side.
Subsequently, the players, who have been in camp since last week Monday, have been released back to their clubs. Sihlangu coach Pieter de Jongh had named 30 players in his squad with the hope that the FA, named the best Sports Association at the National Sport Awards two weeks ago, would secure friendly matches for the squad to help prepare for next March’s crucial 2019 AFCON qualifier against Tunisia.
During the squad’s announcement at Sigwaca House on November 2, FA CEO Frederick Mngomezulu, who was also named the best Sports Administrator at the same awards, told the media that the association had ‘thrown its net wide and deep’ in trying to find opponents for the national team.
However, in a week when Tunisia secured qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the FA failed to get a single match for Sihlangu and finally conceded failure last night through a statement by the organisation’s Communications Officer Muzi Radebe.
“The National Football Association of Swaziland (NFAS) would like to inform the public and all stakeholders that it has since decided to release the players from camp back to their football clubs this Monday (yesterday) following the none success in the acquisition of an international friendly match within this FIFA week, despite the fact that it had already tentatively secured two matches even before the start of the FIFA week,” reads part of the statement. According to reliable sources, the NFAS was in discussions with both the Botswana and Lesotho Football Associations for possible friendly matchups. Botswana were the first to turn down the offer from the local Football Association for unknown reasons while Lesotho opted to play fellow COSAFA side Malawi. That left the NFAS grappling with substitute solutions.
“Efforts to have other alternative matches or at least a practice match proved cumbersome, especially in the light of the fact that the withdrawals or changes of the initial planned matches happened when the period was too short. Most of the countries approached after decried their budgetary constraints to honour the matches, whilst other proved to be expensive to undertake on the current limited budget,” continued the statement.
With this being the last FIFA week before the crunch qualifier against Tunisia in March, the NFAS finds itself in an extremely precarious position. Sihlangu hasn’t played a single match since the 3-0 humiliation by Zambia in the CHAN qualifiers in July.
There were no matches for the September and October FIFA weeks with players only assembling for training. In the statement, the FA said it would try to get preparatory matches even if it meant playing them outside of the FIFA weeks. But since clubs are not obliged to release players to national teams outside the stipulated FIFA dates, it would most likely mean Sihlangu would play weakened sides made up of fringe players at the most.
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