Last season, the flagship TNM Super League set high standards in terms of the quality of the game that was on offer and the overall entertainment package that was delivered at the stadiums.
It all came down to the wire and, in the intensity of that riveting battle, the domestic top-flight league found a rallying cry that spiced its brand and brought the fans back to the stadiums.
There were winners and losers, as it happens in every battle, but for the neutrals, the enduring image will remain the quality, especially in the closing stages of the marathon as Silver Strikers, Escom United and Mighty Wanderers fought for the ultimate prize.
Some will remember the fascination that came with all the twists and turnsâ€”this week Escom having full control and then, right at the end, the Bankers edging their way into the lead.
Glory and failure
Silver fans will remember the day it all ended in a blaze of glory, as their team fought so gallantly to win the title.
Escom will probably remember the day it all ended in heroic failure, right at the end, when the Bankers conducted a spectacular smash-and-grab raid in a campaign that promised so much, but brought so little as they lost 1-0 in the decisive encounter that drove the fans through a bewildering gut of emotions.
And here we go once again. This afternoon, the 2012 TNM Super League season gets underway with most of the big guns swinging into action.
This season is also expected to be so fiery and passionate. What with the hike in the winnerâ€™s purse to K9 million (about $36 000) from K8 million (about $32 000).
The Bankers start their title defence campaign against Bullets in a launch game at the formerâ€™s backyard in the capital city whereas the Nomads host Moyale Barracks at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
In another fixture, Red Lions take on Blantyre United at Zomba Community Centre ground.
Retaining the title
Silver have roped in defender Chipiliro Jose, midfielders Ndaziona Chatsalira and Young Chimodzi Jnr from Escom, in their quest to retain the title.
But they will be without goalkeeper Amadou Ali, new kid on the block Chatsalira and Frank Banda who are with the national team in Tanzania. However, coach Thom Mkorongo said he has enough armoury.
“Ndaziona was not part of the team last season. So, in essence we will be without Amadou and Frank, but we cannot complain,” he said.
On the other hand, Bullets will have a full house, including seasoned winger Fischer â€˜Anongâ€™aâ€™ Kondowe, George Nyirenda and Gabadini Mhango.
However, they will be without their head coach Eddie Ngâ€™onamo who is on a short-term contract in Denmark; so his deputy Gerald Phiri will be in charge.
Wanderers coach Frank â€˜Francoâ€™ Ndawa will also get the show on the road without captain Foster Namwela, goaltender Richard Chapuwa and revitalised midfielder Joseph â€˜Shakiraâ€™ Kamwendo who are with the Flames.
But Ndawa played down their absence, saying: “I believe we have a deep squad and the absence of the three should not be cause for worry.”
The Nomads lost to Moyale four times last season [twice each in league and Standard Bank Cup games], but Ndawa insisted this will be a different campaign.
“They [Moyale] enjoyed a remarkable run over us, but it is a different campaign and we are looking forward to starting on an impressive note,” he said.
The Nomads might as well be buoyed by the unpleasant news of players exodus that is filtering from the soldiers camp.
Moyale coach Nicholas Mhango could not hide his worries and said: “I have problems. My only hope is that things will work out after August when Gastin Simkonda, McDonald Harawa and others come back from military training.”
Super League of Malawi (Sulom) general secretary Williams Banda on Friday said although the bulk of the teams had not yet paid their affiliation fees, all is set for the marathon.
“Only three teams have paid, but our understanding is that they will do that once they receive their [K1 million] seed money from the sponsors,” said Banda.
He also said Sulom is happy that all the teams are complying with the agreement to have contracts with their players.
He said as of yesterday, all the clubs except Bullets, Wanderers and Blue Eagles, had completed the registration process.
Wanderers general secretary David Kanyenda and Bullets vice-general secretary Higger Mkandawire confirmed that they had not yet completed the registration process.
Said Kanyenda: “It has taken us time because we were still in the process of assessment and recruitment of players.
“The other thing is that we were contemplating of not participating because of the match-fixing allegations. However, as sportsmen, we have decided to take part while authorities consider our grievances.”
On his part, Mkandawire said they were finalising negotiations with prospective new players.