Former striker Siza Dlamini was a hero for Swaziland in an international career that last more than a decade. He acknowledged the role that the COSAFA Castle Cup has played in shaping his career.
After being scouted at the tournament, he would go on to have a successful career in South Africa’s Premier Soccer League.
How did the COSAFA Castle Cup help shape your career?
I remember I scored twice again Lesotho and once against Madagascar. The COSAFA Castle Cup helped me a lot in my career, when I first played in the competition I was still at school and very young. People from Swaziland were complaining, saying the national team is not a “school team”, but fortunately enough when I was given a chance, I delivered. I proved a lot of people wrong. It was not a matter of proving people wrong, but rather to honour my call-up in the national team and deliver.
And you were scouted from the COSAFA Castle Cup by clubs in the Premier Soccer League in South Africa …
I wasn’t even aware that there is prole from out of Swaziland who were watching me. There was a [South Africa] team then, Umtata Bush Bucks … after one game I was told I am invited for trials at the club. I had just played and we won 3-1 against Mozambique [in 1999]. Then after me, Dennis Masina followed me through the COSAFA Castle Cup tournament that year. It was a big boost to us.
So it is fair to say that the COSAFA Castle Cup was hugely important to your career?
It has given me a platform even outside of the country, even today I am still in South Africa working as assistant coach at Jomo Cosmos. I believe that is all because of the opportunity given to me by the COSAFA Castle Cup. Maybe I would still be playing in Swaziland if it wasn’t for the tournament.
And it still does so today for players …
The Swaziland guys did well last year, we surprised a lot of people that weren’t aware that football in Swaziland has grown. Out of that tournament we saw Felix Badenhorst move to play in DR Congo [with AS Vita Club], and there are other guys now in DR Congo as well. They were also seen in the COSAFA Castle Cup.
How do you rate Swaziland’s chances this year?
This season’s tournament will be tougher because everybody is aware what they can do. We will not be seen as underdogs like before, we have punished a lot of teams that never thought we would beat. But I would urge them to keep the same momentum as last year, keep their heads calm and then achieve even bigger than in 2016.
It must be a boost for the national team as well that Mbabane Swallows have reached the group stages of the African Confederation Cup?
Swallows is my former team, they are the only ones that I played for in Swaziland. The experience they get in the CAF games will also be a boost for the national team in the COSAFA Castle Cup because the national team is made up of a number of Swallows players, maybe even 50 percent or more. People mustn’t be surprised if we lift the COSAFA Castle Cup this year!
Which matches from your international career stand out?
The one match that stands out is a game we played against Bafana Bafana in Polokwane in 2002. We ended up losing the game 4-1, but I took a free-kick … I still believe that if there was no net in those goals the ball would still be travelling now 15 years later! I hit it so well. Also, the goal I scored against Togo, winning at home 2-1, I scored a header from outside the box. Also, when we were playing in Namibia 1999, I will never forget that semifinal game. If I had scored a penalty in the shoot-out… you know, many Swazi people today still think I cost the country with my miss, but they forget the good things before and after. But you know how people are … if I had scored the penalty, we might have lifted the COSAFA Castle Cup that season, we had such a strong team the likes of which we have not seen since.
You are a long-time assistant coach at Jomo Cosmos. What does the future hold for you?
With the experience I am getting at Cosmos, I still regard myself as a student, I have not graduated yet. The experience that I get working with Jomo Sono is helping me a lot. I believe one day I will stand on my own as a head coach, at the moment I am using one leg, I still need to balance here and there. But maybe one day I will coach the national team. Who knows?