Swaziland national side Sihlangu boast seven Mbabane Swallows players in their final 20-member COSAFA squad.
Coach Anthony Mdluli announced his final team from the 25-member provisional squad before the trip to Polokwane, South Africa, for the regional soccer showpiece late on Wednesday.
Swallows are in the CAF Champions League group stages for the first time. Initially, it was planned the capital city giants’ players would be excluded from Sihlangu, but were eventually selected.
The Swallows players in the team are former Swazi internationals Felix Badenhorst, Wonder Nhleko and Tony Tsabedze as well as the quartet of Sandanezwe Mathabela,Sanele Mkhweli, Njabulo Ndlovu and Mandla Palma. All the players play regularly for Swallows in the CAF Champions League.
League runners-up Young Buffaloes, who were eliminated by South Africa’s Cape Town in the preliminary round of the CAF Confederation Cup early this year, have six players in the final team.
Failing to make the cut were Buffaloes strikers Phiwa Dlamini and Fanelo ‘Order’Mamba, Leopard defender Phumlani Dlamini. Also missing out was Leopard goalkeeper Phephisani Msibi and defender Menzi Simelane from Moneni Pirates.
Meanwhile Palma, Mkhweli, Badenhorst, Tsabedze, Sibandze, Nxumalo, Ndlovu and Nhleko are the only surviving members of the squad that won bronze in the 2016 instalment of the tournament in Namibia in 2016.
The team left by road late on Wednesday. During their farewell function at the National Football Association of Swaziland Technical Centre in Lobamba, the message from government and top football officials led by President Adam ‘Bomber’Mthethwa was loud and clear, as Sihlangu were ordered to bring it home.
Swaziland final squad:
Goalkeepers: Sandanezwe Mathabela (Mbabane Swallows), Nhlanhla Gwebu (Young Buffaloes)Defenders:Banele Dlamini (Green Mamba), Sanele Mkhweli (Mbabane Swallows), Siboniso Ngwenya, Siboniso Mamba, Lindo Mkhonta, Wandile Maseko (all Young Buffaloes)
Midfielders: Mandla Palma, Tony Tsabedze, Njabulo Ndlovu, Wonder Nhleko, Felix Badenhorst, Xolani Sibandze (all Mbabane Swallows), Zweli Nxumalo (Royal Leopards), Sihlangu Mkhwanazi (Young Buffaloes)
Strikers: Barry Steenkamp, Bonginkhosi Dlamini (both Royal Leopard), Sifiso Mazibuko (Young Buffaloes), Musa Dlamini (Green Mamba)
By Ashmond Nzima