The former Free State Stars, Malawi national team and Botswana Centre Chiefs coach Kinnah Phiri departed with the Swaziland champions Mbabane Swallows to honour the first leg preliminary tie against Simba of Tanzania at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday.
Phiri took charge of the “Birds” following the suspension of Thabo “Koki” Vilakati who was suspended allegedly for attacking a ball boy and the Malawian legend is expected to revive the fortunes of the once invincible “Birds” who seem to have lost their graceful flight in recent weeks.
The loss of attacking midfielder Felix Badenhorst and goalkeeper Sandile “Nkomishi” Ginindza (Mbombela United), defender Sanele Mkhweli (Baroka FC) as well as attacking midfielder Banele “Pupu” Sibandze to Polokwane City has greatly crippled the red and whites.
In addition, leading striker Sabelo Ndzinisa who plundered four goals when the Mbabane giants out South African Platinum Stars 4-2 to the sword in a CAF Confederation Cup match, fractured his skull and has been laid off for 14 months and is only expected to re-start playing in two months.
But the show goes on and Swallows flew out of Mbabane on Monday to honour today’s first leg tie against Simba, full of confidence even though most of their die-hards are aware that in recent weeks, the team has been flying on a wing and a prayer.
They have recently lost Nigerian striker Aladeon Kola who has been signed by crack Zambian side Zesco United and although they have captured former AS Vita forward Glody Lilepe Makabi from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the towering striker is ineligible to play until after the January open transfer window.
Lilepe arrived from Egyptian giants Zamalek, where he had reportedly been invited for trials but surprisingly failed to make the grade. However, knowing the player and his abilities, Swallows did not hesitate to sign him when they were made aware of his availability.
He arrived in eSwatini a week ago and according to the Swazi Observer, immediately featured in a friendly match against Premier League side Vovovo and scored a brace.
In the absence of their usual firepower, Swallows will rely on veterans Tony Tsabedze and Wonder Nhleko to lead their charge against the Tanzanians.