In the poem Hughes asks: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore/ And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over/ like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags/ like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”
Arrows’ dream has exploded this season as they are favourites to be relegated to the National First Division after 13 successive seasons campaigning in the Premier Division. The outfit went from the flag carrier of football in KwaZulu-Natal to burying themselves in the first division.
The dream has turned into a nightmare. But it shouldn’t have been like this. The late Rocky Madlala, brother of Arrows boss Mato Madlala, built a team that was poetry in motion with the ball.
The scars of a turbulent past in Lamontville were slowly healed in part by the men who wore the team’s green and gold colours that could have signalled one’s death or survival during the war between the ANC and IFP during the dark days of apartheid. But now they were colours that brought the townships together. Umlazi, Inanda, Ntuzuma, Kwa-Mashu, and other townships in the province started falling in love with the team.
Their echoes went as far as Orlando, where they slayed Ajax Cape Town 6-0 in the MTN8 cup final in 2009 under Manqoba Mngqithi. That was a time where Abafana Bes’thende should have gone up but they went the opposite direction. Failure by Mngqithi to guide the club into the top eight saw him parting ways with Arrows. Zoran Filipovic was plucked from Serbia to lead the team, without success, like Turkish mentor Muhsin Ertugral, German coach Ernst Middendorp and Englishman Mark Harrison.
Hiring those four men was a break in the club’s tradition of giving the coaching job to someone who understood the club’s culture. Khabo Zondo laid the foundation before his understudy Mngqithi perfected it to help Arrows win their first title.
Arrows need – and have always needed – someone who can relate to the players, most of them from townships and rural areas. Their development structures have some exciting players who can return Abafana Bes’thende to the darlings they were. Andile Fikizolo, who terrorised Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup with Thanda Royal Zulu, comes from those structures.
The dream can still return, but if only they stick to their roots.