A new name will be announced when the countries and territories are introduced at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony - that of Eswatini.

The small country in Southern Africa was known as Swaziland until April 2018, when King Mswati III ushered in a new era by deciding to change things.

Eswatini, which means "Land of the Swazis", is what the King had been calling the country for many years.

His decision to make the name official would have caused several headaches, including the rebranding of the Swaziland Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association.

"The King is a very progressive person who has always wanted to see Swaziland on the world map," said Nhlanhla Maphanga, Eswatini's Chef de Mission for Birmingham 2022, to insidethegames.

"This is through infrastructure and also gateways, making sure we are accessible. 

"He felt we needed to change our colonial chains and stand for ourselves, and become the country whose name it was before. 

"That for me was a very bold move, but we've all accepted it and adjusted to that.

Eswatini marching at Gold Coast 2018, when they were still known as Swaziland ©Getty Images
Eswatini marching at Gold Coast 2018, when they were still known as Swaziland ©Getty Images

"It's not a completely new name, it's always been on our travel documents and passports - Kingdom of Eswatini."

A concern in Swaziland was that the country would often be confused with Switzerland.

"When I travelled that was one of the experiences I had," Maphanga added. "When you say you are from Swaziland, people say 'Switzerland?' 

"We needed to get that personal identity. Change is never very popular but it takes adjustment."

One of the consequences of the name change is that Eswatini will march at the Opening Ceremony much earlier if the teams in Birmingham are announced in alphabetical order.

"By the time we walk out [as Swaziland] people are yawning, basically waiting for all the other big countries with the last letters," said Maphanga.

"We're now going to be up front!"

Eswatini, as Swaziland, has claimed one silver and three bronze medals in its Commonwealth Games history.

The country is currently hoping to send 12 athletes to Birmingham - in athletics, swimming and boxing - with final numbers still to be confirmed.

One major hope is 200 metres sprinter Sibusiso Matsenjwa, who reached the semi-finals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. He ran a time of 20.22sec which would have earned him Commonwealth silver at Gold Coast in 2018.

"Our star athletes are in camp in South Africa, just getting themselves ready and training," said Maphanga, a former international footballer for his country.

"Fortunately this is just after the Olympics, so the guys are still fresh. 

"We were very happy with the performance of our athletes (in Tokyo), it just gave us a lot of homework. 

Tokyo 2020 semi-finalist Sibusiso Matsenjwa will be a big Birmingham hope in the 200 metres ©Getty Images
Tokyo 2020 semi-finalist Sibusiso Matsenjwa will be a big Birmingham hope in the 200 metres ©Getty Images

"We are a new Board which just took over at the beginning of this year, so we are finding our feet, but we are also seeing where the gaps are and where the challenges are. 

"One of the major challenges we are facing is mental preparation for our athletes. 

"A lot of the time, stage fright kills our kids. When they get to the actual event, we need to have a psychologist travelling with them to make sure they are mentally prepared each time. 

"You can prepare the kids leading up to the event, but when they get there things change - climate conditions, people, everything. It can overwhelm you as an athlete."

Psychological performance would not have been helped by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as the country's team needed to train over the border in South Africa at a time when international travel was halted.

"One of the things we are striving for is a high performance centre in Eswatini, because right now it's in Pretoria in South Africa," said Maphanga. 

"So that's where we have to send our athletes. We believe we're now at a stage where we should have our own. We would rather bring in the coaches than send the athletes. 

"COVID has had a real big impact for us. The pandemic took us by surprise, it took our Government by surprise, and we shut down all sports before slowly opening up again. 

"When the pandemic hit, they [athletes] all just sat at home. And we slowly tried to tell them 'you can start training at home'. 

"It was quite scary. We lost a lot of time and only a few athletes managed to continue. At least now we are able to travel to South Africa, we are able to compete there. Hopefully we will be back on our feet real quick." 

Maphanga, who played for football clubs Manzini Wanderers, Denver Sundowns and Mbabane Swallows, as well as the senior national side, switched sports when moving into governance and is now President of the country's basketball association.

He is keen to promote the 3x3 discipline - which will appear at the Commonwealth Games for the first time in Birmingham - and in particular the wheelchair version.

Boxing has been a successful sport for Swaziland - now Eswatini - at the Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images
Boxing has been a successful sport for Swaziland - now Eswatini - at the Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images

"The big one we started, that was actually going faster than 3x3, was wheelchair 3x3," he said. 

"That was really coming up very fast but, when COVID hit, everything just stopped. 

"Our equipment is borrowed from an organisation called Cheshire Homes. So when everything stopped, we didn't get access to the equipment any more. 

"So we're slowly building that up again."

Birmingham 2022 will be Maphanga's first Commonwealth Games as Chef de Mission.

He said that the event is well regarded in Eswatini, which has a population of just over a million.

"It is a big deal, we've had very good history," he said. "Boxing is the sport that has given us good history. 

"We've not been that good in athletics but we now have a top 20 athlete in the world [Matsenjwa] coming to the Commonwealth Games. 

"After his performance in Tokyo, everybody is excited and waiting to see.

"It's a first Games for me. I'm excited about it, I'm willing to learn. 

"What I saw from Tokyo, and what I'm seeing now from basketball, is the excitement the athletes have about just getting back out there to play and to compete."