PART 7: THE SIXTH DECADE (1999-2008)

In this installment of the History of the Birds we have a closer look at developments over the last 10 years at our beloved Club.

David Chabeli steps down

Between 1999 and 2001, the Beautiful Birds were still living in the shadow of the two other Soweto giants, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.

In fact, they had been fighting relegation, ending 15th in the 1998/99 season, 12th in the 1999/2000 season and 15th in the 2000/01 season.

The late David Chabeli took a lot of flak from disgruntled supporters and was blamed for the team’s dismal performance.

By this time Chabeli had sold half his shares to F.B. Investments Limited represented by Leon Prins, who became a director of Moroka Swallows at the end of 1999.

However, it was only in 2001 that Bra Pine, after having served the club for more than 50 years, stepped down as co-chairman and director of the club.

Moroka Swallows CEO Leon Prins believes Chabeli did a great job in keeping the fires burning at Swallows.

"I would like to defend the late David Chabeli and say that people don’t realise how hard it was for him under the financial circumstances to keep the club going.

"When we came in, in July 1999, the club had no proper resources", said Prins.

"We put a lot of money into the club. So far, we are happy with the way we have progressed, and would like to thank Volkswagen for coming on board. The investment has been made with particular regard to the proud heritage and tradition of the team."

In Search of a Coach

At the start of the 1999/2000 season, Walter da Silva was head coach for a brief spell.

He left before the end of the season, and Zeca Marques stepped in and saved the club from being relegated.

The 2000/01 and 2001/02 seasons saw Russian, Viktor 'Mind Your Language' Bondarenko as head coach. Bonderenko took the club into sixth position on the log, and the team was becoming increasingly competitive, especially considering its then recent past. Bonderenko's financial demands for the next season were high, and management had already identified Gavin Hunt as an up and coming young coach with great potential.

The Gavin Hunt era

Hunt’s arrival was hailed as the dawn of a new era for the Birds.

Swallows finished fourth in the 2002/03 season, our best finish since the formation of the PSL, and seventh in the 2003/04 season.

Credit for this sudden upsurge in Swallows’ fortunes must go to Leon Prins and his management, who did an excellent job in reviving the 60 year old club.

Under Hunt, Swallows were a much stronger team and in 2004 won the Absa Cup and giving the Birds supporters something to shout about. We finished in fifth place that season.

In the 2005/06 season Hunt led the team to a fourth place finish and in the 2006/07 season would do one better and take them to a third place finish. It was to be his last campaign as Swallows’ head coach and during his five seasons with us he truly helped to turn Swallows into a powerful team once more.

Hunt received an enticing offer from SuperSport United which he couldn’t turn down.

Gorowa takes over

For the next campaign, Leon Prins looked to Ian Gorowa and Innocent Mayoyo to take over the reins at Swallows.

The technical team had also been strengthened with the reacquisition of well-travelled coach Eddie Lewis as technical adviser to assist Ian Gorowa.

Gorowa left after one season with the club. We finished the season at seventh place on the log.

Hoi Julio Cesar Leal

Having performed consistently well, and finishing in the top eight for the past eight years, it was now time to try and find a way to break through the glass ceiling.

To that end a different approach was taken in the recruitment of a top foreign coach, one with educational as well as experiential credentials. Prins went on a coach scouting trip to Brazil, returning with four key players and a new style of coach in Julio Cesar Leal.

Leal showed his worth in the beginning of the season with the introduction of an exciting style of play. Again Swallows were being lauded as one of the ball playing teams in the PSL.

No effort was spared in the preparation of the squad. Japhet Borges, the Brazilian fitness trainer, got the team into a superior physical state. Players were properly fed, supplements were made readily available and detailed conditioning mapping utilizing the Suunto system became an ongoing process. Detailed analysis of opponents' and our own performance utilising the Amisco system was also introduced, adding to a match readiness at any given time.

In addition to a very active marketing program, our youth teams started receiving highly specialised attention and the Swallows Youth Development has become one of the best in the country.

Unfortunately Leal did not yield the desired results consistently over the season in terms of the League, only finishing in eleventh position, although he and the Team did deliver the coveted Nedbank Cup to the joy of our supporters.

With a view to the condensed 2009/10 League season necessitated by the 2010 FIFA World Cup coming to South Africa, coupled with the poor performance of the team in the second half of the season, it was unfortunately decided to part ways with Leal.

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