FORMER Manzini Sundowns coach, Rodwell Dhlakama has finally spoken on the pain he felt after losing the 2011/ 12 MTN Premier League of Eswatini to eventual champions Mbabane Swallows, a season he completed with a “bringing the game of football into disrepute” charge on his head.
This month of May marks eight years since Dhlakama came agonizingly close to becoming the first Zimbabwe-born coach to bag the MTN Premier League of Eswatini. Going into the last three rounds of matches the fixtures were reshuffled, fair play tenets not adhered to with Royal Leopards within striking range, the top three teams were given different kickoff times.
The wheels came off in Week 20 when Sundowns suffered a humiliating thumping 0-4 defeat at the hands of Lloyd Mutasa coached Green Mamba, prompting Dhlakama to launch a verbal tirade that landed him in trouble for “bringing the game into disrepute.”
This weighed heavily on the team’s performance in Week 21 and 22 which effectively handed the title to Mbabane Swallows. The charge failed to stick and he was acquitted.
“It was difficult that season because ordinarily the last three games were manipulated. We were made to play in Mhlume against Young Buffaloes at 1pm on a very hot day and drew 0-0 while Mbabane Swallows kicked off the match against Manzini Wanderers at 6pm.
“Mbabane Swallows were trailing us by two points and they won while we drew and we lost it. I was hurt because Swallows were not even in the title race, it was Leopards and Sundowns for the better part of the season.
“I take solace in the fact that we later won a cup after beating Swallows in the final. I think you are better placed to understand the dynamics of Swaziland football and I am still hurt, I feel I won it and I can say it again and again,” Dhlakama said to this reporter.
Had he won the league, Dhlakama could have joined the ranks of Zambians coaches Manfred Chabinga and Francis “Mkhulu” Banda as the only foreign coaches to win the MTN Premier League and become the first Zimbabwean to achieve the feat.
Chabinga and Banda won it with Royal Leopard and Green Mamba in the 2007/ 08 and 2010/ 11 seasons respectively. Over its 17-year history, the league crown has been won by Swazi coaches.
The current holder of the accolade is Manzini Wanderers coach Nyanga “Crooks” Hlophe who is the most decorated gaffer in the league with four league titles to his name.