By Mark Etheridge
A last minute goal by Tony Zwane ensured that Team South Africa didn’t start their 2nd African Youth Games campaign on a losing note here on Thursday.
Our footballers were the first code in action before the late afternoon’s official opening ceremony at the national stadium.
They took on Swaziland at the local university stadium and shared the spoils 3-3 with their neigbours.
All from the Under-15 age group (the age parameters for these games are between 14-18) the boys in green and gold had a dream start, as the rangy Katleho Mahlaba fired in a shot from the left which was fumbled by the Swazi ‘keeper and SA were 1-0 up within three minutes.
Halftime came and went with South Africa holding on to that lead but 15min into the second half the Swazis were on level terms after some good work down the right.
Less than 10 minute later they took the lead from a freekick just outside the SA area.
But South Africa then equalised in the space of three minutes as captain Sandile Ngcobo put his hand up, bursting into the Swazi area and firing home into the left corner.
Swaziland then nearly broke SA hearts with a headed goal from the first corner of the game in the final minute.
Thankfully, for South Africa that is, the referee added on five minutes due to a lengthy second half injury to a Swazi player and with around two minutes to play it was defender Tony Zwane who was left with space in the area and despite his first shot being saved he managed to retrieve the ball on the byline, cut back inside and blast home to make it 3-3.
South Africa’s next clash is against the host nation Botswana and looking at the Botswana team warming up for their first game, the little South Africans can brace themselves for a physical encounter.
Afterwards, manager Simon Tshowa was happy with his charges. “It was a good game, and remember, this is a first for our guys at this level.”We started well but we didn’t take our chances in the first 35 minutes and of course this is a game of two halves.
“Swaziland played much better in the second half so it was tougher. But being a first experience for the guys they will take a lot out of this game and learn from it.”
Later in the afternoon the Games were officially opened at the national stadium.
Botswana President Lt General Seretse Khama Ian Khama declared the Games open not long after Team South Africa had marched into the stadium on the heels of Sudan.
“On 12 March 2013 Botswana were awarded these Games and we want to thank ANOCA and all the African countries for entrusting us with your youth. Your mere participation makes you all winners.”
The President also joined the world in the desire for the more than 200 missing Nigerian girls recently abducted in that country.
“Our prayers are for the missing girls and join the global rally of ‘Bring back our girls’.
Friday sees the rugby sevens starting their two-day competition, with their main opposition expected to come from Kenya. Aquatics and badminton will be other codes also be in action.