Swazis were out in all their splendor last week to fill up the tiny Somhlolo Stadium in Ezulwini for the annual Telecom Charity Cup.
The event is aimed at raising much-needed funds for the needy and charitable organisations in the landlocked kingdom, something their big brothers in South Africa have abandoned.
The South African Premier League endeared itself to people countrywide with the annual Telkom match — and previously the Iwisa Charity Spectacular — which raised funds for charities.
In fact, the Swazi event was based on the South African event, for which there was a vote hotline, and the four teams that amassed the most votes qualified to contest the one-day event, although there were murmurs that some clubs abused the system, which led to less popular teams making the cut.
But that did not matter much and South Africans supported the event, annually packing the Crown Mine Stadium in the knowledge that their support was going to charitable organisations. But seven years ago, the popular event was mysteriously canned and in its place came the Carling Black Label Cup, contested by Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates only.
In the past, several criteria were used to select at least 15 charitable organisations that would receive the funds raised, but the Black Label Cup has made a mockery of that, with the chairpersons of Chiefs and Pirates selecting one lucky supporter from their respective clubs to win R1-million. Half the supporter’s winnings goes to a charity of their choice.
But the Swazis have stayed true to the original concept and the organisers were so excited about last week’s attendance that they predicted they must have collected at least R1-million, which will be shared among the charities.
“We might not have the financial muscle of South Africa but, as footballers, we are always mindful of the fact that there are people that are unfortunately unable to care for themselves and others live beyond the breadline,” Swazi Premier League chairperson Victor Gamedze said.
He said, since the inception of the match, the football organisation has been able to build homes for orphaned children, set up neighbourhood care points and gardens for feeding schemes, provide medication for the sickly, pay school fees for abandoned and orphaned children and refurbish vandalised schools.
Royal Leopards and Mbabane Swallows contested the final, which ended in a 1-1 stalemate. But Swallows, who had eliminated their traditional rivals Mbabane Highlanders 2-1 in the semifinal, triumphed 5-4 in a penalty shootout.