Noel Munzabwa in Manzini, Swaziland
Former Warriors’ assistant coach Saul Chaminuka has delivered on his mandate to secure promotion into the Premiership for ambitious MTN National First Division outfit Matsapha United.
Champagne bottles were popped on Sunday after Matsapha crushed Sikhalo 3-1 to clinch the first of the two promotion berths.
The win put Matsapha on 47 points from 19 matches, with three games to go, a tally beyond third-placed Vovovo’s maximum possible tally of 45. Vovovo now have to battle it out with former Premiership outfit Malanti Chiefs for the second promotion slot.
Chaminuka will not settle for just promotion, but wants to go all the way and win the remaining matches to be crowned champions, something he last achieved with Black Mambas in the 1986 Zifa Northern Region Division One.
“Champagne bottles may be popped for promotion, it’s fine and deserving for the boys, team leadership and the fans, but the job is not done yet. I want to win all the remaining matches because I want to be the best,” said Chaminuka.
“When they took me from Zimbabwe they saw something extraordinary which was not there otherwise they would have hired a Swazi coach and so it’s that extra mandate I gave to myself not to settle for second, but to be the best. If my colleague Tarisai Changara could win it with Tambuti FC last season, it gives me some inspiration. This became my pinnacle in this campaign together with the commitment within the family.
“With everything permitting why should we not win the last three matches and be crowned champions of the First Division then fancy our chances up there. The boys have proven beyond doubt that they are beyond First Division material,” he said.
Chaminuka said there were moments when he felt Matsapha were “oversized” for the second tier and that feeling inspired them.
Their last two games of the season will be against Malanti Chiefs and Vovovo, who both want to secure the last Premiership promotion slot.
With promotion in the bag, Chaminuka can now go for the jugular and aim for the country’s richest knockout tournament, the SwaziBank Cup, a qualifier for the Caf Confederation Cup.
Matsapha knocked out defending champions Mbabane Swallows 2-1 in the tournament’s biggest ever upset that ended the Birds’ 28-match winning streak.
Speaking to the club’s website, Chaminuka did not hide his intention to take the team to the Africa safari. After narrowly missing out on qualification for the Caf club competitions with ZPC Kariba in 2015, Chaminuka has set targets for the African Safari with Matsapha.
“Now that we have beaten Swallows, we have to go all the way. We have to look at how we are going to handle the smaller things as Matsapha United. I hope the players are not going to get too excited and we end up giving it away.
“After winning like this, we are supposed to go all the way and play in Africa come next year. This is my dream, this is why I came back to Matsapha United after Afcon,” Chaminuka told the club’s website.