By Lwazi Dlamini
Mbabane Highlanders fans’ endless un-sportsmanship behaviour is drilling a big hole in Managing Director Chief Ally Kgomongwe’s pockets.
A staggering E600 000 has already been paid by the South African businessman since he took over the ‘Black Bull’ chairmanship on June 20, 2019. Highlanders now face another E120 000 fine after the club’s fans caused mayhem at Mavuso Sports Centre after a 2-1 loss to Manzini Sea Birds where, like blood-thirsty hyenas, they attacked referee Mbongeni Shongwe who ran like a cheetah on steroids to the safety of a police van.
The movie-like scene played itself after Manzini Sea Birds striker Sandumuzi Zwane looked like he had used his hand to score the 79th-minute winning goal against Highlanders in a typical fashion of Argentina’s Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the World Cup 1986 quarter-final in Mexico.
A peeved Kgomongwe, who spends not less than E3 million a year running Highlanders, told the Eswatini Financial Times this week that the money spent on paying fines due to fans’ misbehaviour is a huge concern for him and as a result, he has called an urgent Supporters meeting.
“When I took over I found that Highlanders were owing close to E200 000 with the PLE in fines. I had to settle that bill and already I have spent close to E600 000. This is too much. This money could be used to settle other expenses of running the team. I cannot comment on the latest issue because we need to investigate what happened. We have called a meeting for the supporters this weekend. We need to get to the bottom of the issue because it is crippling us,” Kgomongwe said.
He said there is a need to find a lasting solution to the fans’ misbehaviour.
“These things are crippling us and costing us a lot of money,” he noted. According to Article 7 of the 2022/2023 MTN Premier League rules and regulations, the Capital City giants are facing five counts for the despicable incident, which has been trending on social media platforms. Highlanders could be charged in an accordance with Article 7.1 which states that pitch invasion comes with a summary fine of E15 000.
“Invading the pitch before, during, after a game by supporters, fans, marshal or spectators (unless authorised by an official in celebration of a goal (s)) – a summary of E15 000 by the PLE. The second count will be for threatening the referee which carries a maximum of E30 000.”
The third count will be Article 7.1 (b) which reads: “Threatening by conduct or words to assault or attempt to assault a referee, PLE official, player, club official, marshal, supporter, fan carries a minimum fine of E10 000 and a maximum fine of E30 000 and in addition, the offending club shall be ordered to compensate the victim for any financial loss, incurred due to the assaults by the DC.”
The fourth count states that: “Uttering abusive or obscene or derogatory words, spitting or emission of saliva onto any person or directed towards a person carries a minimum of E25 000 and a maximum of E40 000 fine by the DC. This should include players where players can incite fans, opposing players and officials.”
The fifth count, which Highlanders could also face, states that: “Use of provocative or insulting gestures or signals, unbecoming behaviour or conspiracy or attempts to act to bring football into disrepute or inciting people to behave in a manner that brings the game of football into disrepute, which carries a minimum fine of E10 000 and a maximum fine of E30 000.”
Highlanders’ fans’ despicable act of hooliganism has been widely condemned by all football stakeholders including the office of the Premier League of Eswatini (PLE) CEO, Kenneth Makhanya. Highlanders have issued a statement condemning the fan’s un-sportsmanship.