Absa Premiership

Swallows return from the soccer grave

Moroka Swallows CEO Sipho Xulu (Gallo Images)
Moroka Swallows CEO Sipho Xulu (Gallo Images)

It's the same dazzling, if at times enigmatic club that for four decades and more shared honours with Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs and the label of Soweto's "Big Three" soccer teams.

But while Moroka Swallows are rising at a quite alarming and unforeseen rate from an apparent football grave like the mythical phoenix in a bid to regain Absa Premiership status, it is on a slightly different wing - having changed the club's name to Swallows FC after purchasing Maccabi FC's PSL First Division status in the current season for something in the region of R8 million.

"It's the same Birds, however," says Swallows CEO Sipho Xulu, "the same objective to play exciting, exhilarating soccer, the same recognisable maroon strip and the same kind of administration, but with the objective of extending support a little further afield than the original Soweto base."

While Swallows descended to the depths of SAFA's third tier divisions after suffering relegation from the Absa Premiership and the PSL First Division in the 2014/15 season, Xulu says a dedicated band of the club's supporters that included current president Panyaza Lesufi and chairperson David Mogashoe, had never abandoned the concept of reviving the club one day in one way or another - finally raising the finance to buy Maccabi's status.

"It was never our intention to aim for Premiership promotion in the current season as we set about reviving the team," said the Swallows CEO. "But success has come faster than expected, with eight victories and a draw in the last First Division games."

Now The Birds, as they are traditionally known, see a glimmer of hope of promotion to the Absa Premiership this season, if not automatically by heading the First Division, but through the now inviting prospect of finishing second or third in the log table and participating in the season-ending promotion-relegation procedure.

"But if it does not happen this season," says Xulu, "it will certainly happen in the near future. Swallows remain a South African soccer icon and the Premiership will only be enhanced by the return of The Birds."

Coached by the incisive Brendan Trutter and with a combination of experience and an ongoing nursery of traditional talent in Soweto, where home games are played, Xulu says Swallows are intent also on luring past legends of the ilk of Ace Mnini and Aubrey Magkopela into the club's structures after securing timely sponsorship.

"We are flying high," says the Swallows CEO, "but our feet are on the ground. The rebuilding process will not be rushed and consolidation will be based on ensuring the fall from grace in recent years is not repeated again."

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