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77-goal striker headlines Eswatini giants’ COSAFA squad

Fresh from a fruitful harvest of her 77 goals last season, scoring sensation Celiwe Cece Nkambule headlines the Young Buffaloes Ladies’ squad as they carry the Eswatini flag to the region. 

They left the country on Thursday afternoon for the CAF Women’s Champions League, COSAFA Zone set for South Africa from 6 to 14 August. 

Not new to the goals spree, Cece holds an 86-goal season record from two years ago and could fancy a couple of goals if not a haul at the regional competition, but it will certainly not be presented on a silver platter against regional opponents though it remains a possibility.

The Eswatini outfit was seen off by sports ministry director Lucky Sihlongonyane who represented Minister Harries Bulunga.

In the speech on his behalf, Bulunga said the government would continue to prioritise the development of women’s sports in Eswatini. 

“World over, we are witnessing the immense growth of women’s football as exemplified by the recent success of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations held in Morocco. As Eswatini, we cannot afford to be left behind in this revolutionary growth of the women’s game.”

EFA

“His Majesty’s Government remains committed to supporting the growth of women’s football and all of women’s sports in the Kingdom. Indeed, women’s participation in sports is one of our key focus areas. We affirm our commitment to continuing to work with the EFA, EWFA and all stakeholders to move women’s football forward in our beautiful Kingdom.”

Young Buffaloes come into the Hollywoodbets COSAFA Women’s Champions League on the back of some incredible form on the domestic front that they hope will be the spur for qualification to the continental finals.

Young Buffaloes played 24 games in this year’s domestic campaign and won all of them, scoring 221 goals and not conceding any with weighing in with 77.

It is a remarkable run as they debut in the COSAFA Women’s Champions League. They have been drawn in Group B with powerful Zambian side Green Buffaloes and Olympique de Moroni from Comoros.

Young Buffaloes are coached by former national team striker Fisiwe Hlophe, who now jointly holds the record for the most goals in a single season back home, with 86.

Hlophe recently told the media that her philosophy is to attack, which is borne out in her team’s results this season.

“I always train my players to go forward and try to score,” she says. “Our game is about the attack and playing good football. That is how I like my side to play, and we will do that at the tournament [in Durban] too.”

Hlophe says preparations for the COSAFA Women’s Champions League have been going well, and she is pleased with where her side is ahead of Sunday’s opener against Green Buffaloes at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium (kick-off 15h30 CAT).

“All of my players are available and putting in maximum effort,” she says. “We are geared up for the tournament. It’s a tricky draw, we have seen maybe six or seven players from Green Buffaloes in the Zambia national team [at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations], but we don’t know the teams that well.

“We can study Green Buffaloes from last year [in Durban], but they could have a new team, so you cannot count on that. So that makes it difficult.

“It is just for us to go there and fight, to play best and play to our system.”

Young Buffaloes also have several Eswatini national team players that have competed at past COSAFA events, which will hold them in good stead.

“I have about seven players who were in the national team, so them having gone to the COSAFA Women’s Championship will help us a lot because they will know a little about the level.”

Young Buffaloes’ second match in Group B will be against Olympique de Moroni on August 11 (15h30 CAT).

The top club in each of the two pools will contest the final at the COSAFA Women’s Champions League, where the victor will earn a place at the 2022 Total Energies CAF Women’s Champions League finals scheduled for Morocco later in the year.

The runners-up in the pools will contest for the bronze medal in Durban, which would be some consolation for not reaching the decider.

Meanwhile, their Zambia opponents, Green Buffaloes Women Football Club, left Lusaka for Durban on Thursday afternoon ahead of the 2022 HOLLYWOODBETS COSAFA Women’s Champions League that kicks off this Sunday.

By Munyaradzi Munzabwa

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