Mbabane, Swaziland — FORMER Zimbabwe Under-17 and Monomotapa coach Rodwell Dhlakama tasted his first major success in Swaziland when he guided his Manzini Sundowns to a narrow victory over Young Buffaloes in the Telkom Charity Cup at Somhlolo stadium yesterday.
Dhlakama who joined Sundowns in mid-season last year saw his charges secure a 1-0 win that guaranteed them the R600 000 winners cheque in the R1, 5million tournament.
A 28th minute Phinda Dhlamini strike was good enough to see Sundowns successfully defend the season opening competition.
Dhlkama was joined in celebrating the triumph by fellow countryman and goalkeeper Pride Zendera.
But the villain of week would be ex-Highlanders junior Hloniphani Ndebele whose decision to append his signature to a Mbabane Highlanders deal after signing for Sundowns caused an impasse between the two clubs.
Following the dispute that arose Ndebele's registration has since been frozen by the league authorities.
Ndebele had been cleared to Sundowns where he penned a one year contract before changing heart to rejoin Highlanders last Thursday.
He then tried to returning to the Manzini outfit on Friday.
But this setback was not enough from stopping his fellow countrymen Dhlakama and Zendera from celebrating with a floating trophy, the prize money to add to a car which they won in the tele-voting process.
After winning the charity cup in their maiden appearance last year with a 2-1 win over Manzini Wanderers, Sundowns for whom Dhlakama took over in mid-season last year, were always favourites to retain the cup for a second successive season.
An elated Dhlakama paid tribute to his lads for playing to instruction and not letting the Ndebele saga distract their attention.
"The credit goes to the players for not letting off-field issues like the Hloniphani saga distract their attention. They played according to instruction and they deserved it. Congratulations to the players to the directors and the fans for the win," said Dhlakama.
In marching to the final, Sundowns edged league champions Mbabane Swallows 1-0 while Young Buffaloes caused the major upset of the tourney by bungling out Mbabane Highlanders 3-2.
Apart from the action in the final, debate in the terraces had been dominated by the former Highlanders wingback's saga.
Having spent the closing six months of last season at Mbabane Highlanders from Manzini Wanderers Ndebele had been cleared to join Manzini Sundowns and even penned a one -year deal.
Ndebele however stunned many people in the football fraternity on Thursday afternoon when he appended his signature to a fresh one- year deal with Mbabane Highlanders halting his registration for the forthcoming season.
Now one of the two clubs would have to cancel the contract with the player before he can be registered but judging by the acrimony between the two clubs it is most unlikely either part could back down.
The player's agent Sandile Dlamini could not be reached.
Sundowns public relations officer Muzi Matsenjwa accused Highlanders of exhibiting big brother bully behaviour in the whole matter.
"We deserve a little respect in this as Ndebele is our player who was cleared by Highlanders to us. So, if they are interested in having him back they should have just followed the correct procedure," said Matsenjwa without hinting on the next course of action.