Posts Tagged ‘royal leopards’

Mbabane Highlanders v Royal Leopards, Sunday 15th March 2015, 10am

April 8, 2015

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Jen and I had been spending the weekend at the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Swaziland and with the football game I had in mind not starting until ten we had time to go for a walk beforehand. Swaziland is hot and humid at this time of year and so our 6am start made it a lot more enjoyable.

There was a seven kilometre trail that looped around a lake and so we just followed that. Early on we got up close enough to a bok that I could probably have touched it if I’d wanted. Fiddling with the wildlife is frowned upon by the authorities though and so I just stared it out.

Later on, as we walked by the edge of the lake we got within a few feet of a crocodile. Not quite close enough to touch it, but I was fine with that. It seemed less impressed with us than vice-versa and submerged all bar its nostrils under the water.

Somewhere should sell a plastic version for fish ponds.

Somewhere should sell a plastic version for fish ponds.

After checking out we headed for the Manzini Club in Mbabane for a game in the Premier Reserve League. It’s a newish competition, I think, intended to give more competitive action to the under twenties at the Premier League clubs.

There was a sign outside the gate stating that the Manzini Club was a members-only institution. I’m not really one for joining clubs, I was a junior member of Norton Cricket Club as a kid and signed up to Lyndhurst Working Mens Club a few years ago when working down by the New Forest. Even if either of those clubs had reciprocal arrangements with the Manzini Club, my memberships had long since lapsed.

Highlanders v Leopards

Highlanders v Leopards

In the end, it didn’t matter as there was nobody on the gate and we pulled into a car park behind one of the goals. The game had just kicked off and there was a policewoman watching from a few feet up a tree with her semi-automatic rifle was hanging from a branch nearby. Hopefully that would deter any potential car thieves.

There was a temporary stand to one side of the pitch and we joined the thirty or so people sitting along the one shaded row at the back. As the game went on a few more spectators arrived with most of them preferring to sit under the trees behind the goal at the car park end.

The Main Stand.

The Main Stand.

Leopards, in the blue strips, took the lead with a penalty midway through the first half and then added a second just before the break. At half-time the players didn’t use the dressing rooms but instead camped out under separate trees. Not surprisingly they were keen to get on with the game and it was only ten minutes before the second half started.

Half-time

Half-time

Whilst I was doing my best to keep up with play I was frequently distracted by Billy Casper in the Highlanders goal. He looked far too slight to be a keeper and his kit seemed on the large side for him. The Casper connection was enhanced by him swinging on the bar at one point.

His shirt didn’t help any hope he had of being taken seriously, with it turning brown about a third of the way down. It looked as if he had stuffed it down a drain the night before and then retrieved it on the way to the game.

Billy Casper

Billy Casper

The Highlanders fought back early in the second half, pulling one back when one of their players chased a long ball and poked it past the Leopards keeper. Two minutes later a diving header put them on level terms.

Leopards restored their lead with a quarter of an hour remaining via a twice-taken penalty and then spent the remaining fifteen minutes wasting as much time as possible. Their goalie was the worst culprit, probably because the ref couldn’t make him leave the field for treatment. He didn’t even need the ball to come near him to sustain an injury, dropping to the ground on two occasions when the action was in the other half.

Another penalty.

Another penalty.

Justice was done in the ninety-fourth minute when the Highlanders got their equaliser, again through a twice taken penalty. By this time I’d lost patience with the Leopards tactics and whilst I didn’t celebrate quite so enthusiastically as the Highlanders supporters around me, I was very happy to see them snatch a point.

 

 

Royal Leopards v Petro de Luanda, Saturday 14th March 2015, 3.30pm

March 31, 2015

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Swaziland is less than four hours drive from where we live but after a year and a half in South Africa, we still hadn’t got around to going there. I think I’d subconsciously been hanging on to try to combine any visit with the Reed Dance. You know the one I mean, it’s that ceremony where as a way of helping the King select another bride the local women dance around their handbags without their blouses on.

I’ve no time for the monarchy, but if we had events like that outside of Buckingham Palace I imagine I could probably put my Republican sympathies to one side for the afternoon.

In the absence of any royal events involving girls in states of undress it was the prospect of seeing the Swazi Police team Royal Leopards in the equivalent of a UEFA Cup game against a side from Angola that proved sufficient to tempt us over the border.

We stayed at the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in what was described as a beehive hut. I can’t imagine anything worse than staying in a giant beehive, perhaps except a giant wasp or hornet‘s nest, but as there weren’t any bees inside it worked out fine.

Beehive hut

Beehive hut

The Somhlolo National stadium in Lobamba was only ten minutes drive away from our hut and there was plenty of parking on the field outside. Soon after paying our thirty Swazi wotsits on the gate we heard our car alarm going off, but fortunately we were close enough to be able to use the remote to silence it. I spent the rest of the game wondering what might have been nicked.

We watched  the first half in the South Stand behind one of the goals. The main West Stand housed most of the spectators, with a handful in the North and one or two loitering on the grassy terrace to our right.

View from the South Stand

View from the South Stand

We attracted a little more attention than we usually do, starting with a fella in a Kaizer Chiefs shirt who was insistent that I tried some of his home-brewed morula. It was a cloudy beige liquid and he had two litres of it in an old coke bottle. I detected a hint of apple in my quick swig with perhaps the slight bouquet of anti-freeze. Whatever it had been made from, it certainly had a kick to it.

We were then joined by a small girl who quietly exchanged pleasantries with Jen before asking her for money.

The game kicked off five minutes early at twenty-five past three. They wouldn’t get away with that at the Riverside where people have the timing of downing their final pre-match pint down to a fine art. Mind you, missing the first five minutes at the Riverside due to an earlier than scheduled kick-off wouldn’t be as bad as the game kicking off later than planned and you arriving in your seat to discover that you have five minutes of Me Mark Page’s gobshitery to contend with.

Hat of the day.

Hat of the day.

Royal Leopards had done well to be in the current round of the CAF Confederations Cup. They’d lost the away leg of the previous tie at Bidvest Wits three-nil, but had then rallied at home to turn it around and get through. Oh Massimo.

The hosts  looked to have their work cut out in this round too as with game no more than five minutes old the Angolans, in yellow and blue, converted a cross from the left at the near post.

Leopards equalised midway through the first half with a penalty after a contentious handball. The linesman flagged for it just a few minutes after ruling that a shot that had bounced down from the Petro crossbar hadn’t crossed the line. I felt that each decision could have gone either way and suspected that the linesman felt under pressure not to rule against the home side twice in quick succession.

One each.

One each.

At half time I bought a couple of pieces of grilled chicken. I could have had beef or pork, but I couldn’t peel off the skin from those as I could with the chicken and as the lad on the stall seemed to have minimal interest in chasing away the flies that kept landing on the food, chicken seemed marginally safer.

Half-time snacks.

Half-time snacks.

For the second half we moved to the South Stand, mainly to avoid the prospect of any more morula. We were successful, although we did end up handing over twenty rand each to a six year old girl selling what we subsequently discovered was probably tap water in re-filled plastic bottles.

Tap water and nuts.

Tap water and nuts.

Ten minutes after the re-start a goalmouth scramble ended up with Leopards taking the lead and a mass celebration that included all of the bench and a couple of the ball boys. They couldn’t hold on though and Petro squared the game with a quarter of an hour to go to set themselves up nicely for the second leg.