With the turnout held hostage to the ebb-and-flow of the events in that little penalty area, up stepped Kamuzu Barracks (KB) goalkeeper Lemani Nthala for the decisive spot-kick of the inaugural Fisd Challenge Cup final last year.
There was a cathedral-hush silence in the packed Civo Stadium as the fans held their breath with their dreams buried in that little penalty realm.
And as the stadium oozed anxiety, Nthala chose to go for power instead of dexterity and his Be Forward Wanderers counterpart Vales Kamzere displayed incandescent brilliance by athletically leaping to his right to repel the spot-kick.
It was game over! KB were shattered cruelly and clinically, and it was party time for the Nomads who turned the stadium into a theatre of celebrations as the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) side trudged off disconsolately with their heads hang in disappointment, looking bemused and out of place.
But once bitten twice shy, so the saying goes, and Saturday afternoon KB have a chance to atone for that slip when they make their second successive final appearance in the K50.2 million showpiece against their ‘brothers-in-arms’—Moyale Barracks—at the same venue.
At stake is K12 million winner’s purse with the losing team getting a K5 million consolation and KB coach Billy Phambala believes this is their time—It’s a close quarters’ combat in the capital city.
“Losing a cup final through penalties is one of the most painful experiences in football and last year’s loss still haunts us.
“And if God has given us another chance, it means alinafe cholinga [He has a plan for us],” he said in a pre-match interview on Wednesday.
Phambala also expects a tough match, saying: “We play more or less the same type of football. They know our strengths and weaknesses so do we and there is pride at stake. So, I reckon it will be a tough game.”
On the other hand, Moyale also have an axe to grind with KB who beat them 1-0 in Carlsberg Cup finals four years ago in Mzuzu through a Harvey Nkacha’s strike.
With the match seemingly headed for a penalty shoot-out, a fabulous cross from the right flank was deftly dinked into the net by Nkacha.
Moyale assistant coach Charles Kamanga on Friday said it will be payback time for KB Saturdy afternoon.
“We are ready for the match. We haven’t won a cup for a while now and the players know the importance of the match.
“We still have bitter memories of the last time we faced them in [Carlsberg Cup] final and the Fisd Challenge Cup provides us a chance to settle the scores,” he said.
Kamanga also said KB’s use of Civo Stadium as their home ground, “does not bother us much. We would rather concentrate on our game plan and approach.”
The good part is that spectatorship is welcome at this battle as it will not involve the use of machine guns, mortars and mountain grenade launchers but, rather, the mere kicking of the ball.
Incredibly, to qualify for the finals both KB and Moyale sailed through 5-4 wins on post-match penalties after playing out two-all draws against Masters Security and Nyasa Big Bullets in regulation time, respectively.
Statistics do not lie and having won both their TNM Super League encounters—1-0 at home in the first round snd 2-1 away in the second round—the odds appear to swing in KB’s favour. But such is the beauty of football that it does not always go according to script as the KB coach alluded to: “This will be a different game, a cup final and we cannot be clouded by previous results.”
In Nkacha, Kelvin Hanganda, Dave Banda, Mude Jeffrey, Diouf Simaone and Manasse Chiyesa, KB have a strong attacking armoury but the Kaning’ina Lions have of late developed a resilient, disciplined and occasionally inventive display with Khuda Muyaba at the heart of their revival aided by the combative promptings of captain Timothy Nyirenda, Boy-Boy Chima, Chamveka Gwetsani and Clifford Fukizi.