David Mogashoa says Panyaza Lesufi saved Swallows from oblivion
Swallows FC chairman David Mogashoa has credited Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi for arresting the club’s slide into lower league oblivion.
Following Moroka Swallows’s relegation from the Premier Soccer League (PSL) in 2014-15 the debt-ridden club plunged dramatically down through the National First Division (NFD) to the amateur ABC Motsepe League in a season.
Lesufi‚ a prominent Swallows fan‚ was reportedly given the club by previous owner Leon Prins and had to settle debt apparently amounting to R25-million‚ and arrest a slide that might have seen one of the original great names in SA football relegated to the scrap pile of history.
The MEC had to attract investors‚ including some of the club’s traditional stalwarts and supporters‚ at one stage launching a ticket shareholding system for the team’s supporters.
Lesufi then convinced Mogashoa – owner of Bahwiti Investments – to buy the major share of the club. In August Swallows bought the NFD (GladAfrica Championship) status of Maccabi FC‚ and in their first campaign the club are pushing for promotion back to the PSL.
“If it wasn’t for Lesufi’s persistence I don’t think the team would have been revived at all‚” Mogashoa told TimesLIVE‚ detailing one of the most dramatic rescue missions seen of a legendary South African football club.
“Because‚ I mean‚ I wouldn’t have just gone out of my way and said‚ ‘I’m going to spend my own money and revive Moroka Swallows’.
“He kept knocking on my door until I thought‚ ‘You know what‚ let’s just do it’.
“I got involved when the team was in the Motsepe League. But in the Motsepe you realise you’re going to spend a lot of money‚ because there’s no grant.
“That’s where Panyaza played a huge role. Because he kept the team going on his own savings until he had no savings any more.
“And the fans just kept asking us that‚ ‘We want to go to the PSL’.
“We said that we want to start with NFD‚ just get ourselves ready there‚ and prepare ourselves for the PSL.”
Swallows started with one win in five games back in the NFD‚ then replaced coach Zeca Marques with current boss Brandon Truter.
Now the second-placed Birds are chasing even outright promotion at five points behind leaders Ajax Cape Town after a run of eight wins from their last 10 games.
Mogashoa said Truter asked for a bloated squad to be trimmed to 23‚ with one or two quality signings made.
“His mandate was to stabilise the team‚ make sure we survived and then maybe push for the top eight. But he achieved more than we’d hoped for‚” the Swallows chairman said.
“Now we can feel the PSL‚ we can touch it.”
Swallows‚ who lost 3-2 away to Pretoria University last weekend‚ meet third-placed Uthongathi in a big fixture at Dobsonville Stadium on Saturday (kickoff 3.30pm).
Swallows FC is an interim name‚ with the club waiting to settle one outstanding debt left to Brazilian player Igor Alves before they can resume the name Moroka Swallows.