Tsholotsho Football Club is the first team from outlying areas to be promoted to the Zifa Southern Region Division One League after winning the Zifa Bulawayo Metropolitan Province Division Two championship.
The project of Tsholotsho businessman Mandla Manyathela has players from as far as Mutare and Mhangura, whom coach Lizwe Sweswe believes are top material to put up a challenge in Division One.
“I am a coach who likes travelling and scouting for talent all over the country. I go to the Youth Games, Nash (National Association of Secondary School Heads) and Naph (National Association of Primary Heads) games.
“That is where I believe there is talent. When I spot talent during my travels, Manyathela comes in when I need the money for the boys to come to Tsholotsho and for their upkeep in terms of accommodation, food, salaries and winning bonuses,” Sweswe said.
The club has four local players that include the captain Nelson Moyo, 2011 Top Goal Scorer Justice Siziba (28 goals), the Players’ Player of the Year Nkosilathi Moyo and Moment Dube.
The Player of the Year, Pasca “Ovidy” Manhanga, Most Disciplined Player Rodrick Mufudza, Tinashe Chabwanya, Nicholas Badu and Regis Wemba were fished out from Mutare while goalkeeper Nickel Marichi and William Stemar were spotted in Mashonaland West’s small town of Mhangura.
From the City of Kings, Tsholotsho have the Most Improved Player Butholezwe Ncube, Thandolwenkosi Ncube, Qaphelani Ndebele, Ayanda Ncube, Crypos Nyika, Ashley Ndiweni and another goalkeeper Hilton Mkhwananzi.
The Player Awards were held in Tsholotsho last Sunday and each player walked away with $50 in prize money.
That makes the club from the semi-rural setting that has made it into Division One and seeks to make waves in the country’s football arena.
Sweswe says the average age of the players is 20 and their staying together in Tsholotsho contributed immensely to winning the championship.
“We started preparing early for the year. The league started in March, but we began our preparations and assembled our squad in January. One other thing is that the boys are always together.
They all stay in one place at the Tsholotsho Clubhouse. The unity is strong and they know each other very well.
The boys are committed, the sponsor (Manyathela) is committed as well and the community support is very marvelous. I think the boys have the potential to compete in Division One,” Sweswe said.
Sweswe, brother to Warriors and South African Premiership side Kaizer Chiefs defender Thomas, said winning the championship would be good for Tsholotsho.
“Our promotion is good for Tsholotsho. It has never happened before. The Division Two teams were not coming here and the football fans were being shortchanged. But now, there will be plenty of football for the locals even the nearby rural community,” Sweswe said.
Tsholotsho FC’s home ground is Phinda Stadium at the business centre and only four teams — NRZ Tigers, Zimplow, East Rovers and Amalanda — travelled there for their home matches and they played the rest of their home games in Bulawayo’s Luveve and White City stadiums.
They won the championship with 82 points from 34 matches, winning 25 games, playing seven draws and losing only two matches.
Sweswe said he had assurances from the team owner Manyathela that they would not have problems travelling for their games next year.
“Like I said, we played most of our home games in Bulawayo and Tsholotsho is central say to Bulawayo and Hwange and Victoria Falls and we have a team bus and I don’t think we will have any problems travelling for our games,” Sweswe said.
He paid tribute to his brother, Thomas, whom he said financially helped him in attaining his coaching certificates and providing boots to some his players and part of the training equipment he uses with Tsholotsho Pirates.
Sweswe is a Level Four coach and holds a Caf C Licence.