The struggle for Carlsberg Cup semi-final places will this weekend degenerate into a fully-blown out war between civilian and security teams in arguably the strangest quarter-finals in the tournament’s history.
Nyasa Big Bullets clash with Malawi Defence Force (MDF) outfit Mafco at Chitowe ground in Dwangwa, Nkhotakota while Be Forward Wanderers face Malawi Prison Service side Prison United at Balaka stadium.
In tomorrow’s last eight tussles, PremierBet Wizards face Malawi Police Service (MPS) team Mangochi Police while another army side Red Lions hosts Silver Strikers at Balaka stadium.
While any outcome is expected in the Wanderers versus Prison game, the pick of the day is between Mafco and Bullets. The two sides are not strange to rivalry as they recently met in the Presidential Cup. Bullets triumphed 3-0.
In the TNM Super League last season, Mafco gave Bullets a run for their money in a two-horse race during the closing stages, but the People’s Team held on to its nerve to retain the honours.
Last year, Bullets also eliminated Mafco from the Carlsberg Cup in the quarter-finals after winning 7-6 on post-match penalties.
Statistics favour Bullets going into this match. In their recent last nine meetings, Bullets have claimed four wins, four others ended in draws while one game ended in Mafco’s favour, however, the odds appear ovewhelmingly against Bullets this time around as they are hit ny injuries.
According to their interim general secretary Kelvin Moyo, out of a squad of 26, only 18 are fully fit while the rest are injured.
Those injured include defenders Pilirani Zonda and Miracle Gabeya, midfielders Dalitso Sailesi and Bashir Maunde. Already, they are without John Lanjesi who got injured while on national duty about two months ago.
Chikondi Likwemba has also been sidelined due to injury for sometime now. Muhammad Sulumba is attending trials at South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Polokwane City while defender Sankhani Mkandawire and goalkeeper Owen Chaima have been loaned to Tanzanian club Mbeya Stars.
Meanwhile, the Bullets GS also said they were contemplating boycotting the match after alleged MDF soldiers physically assaulted some of their players at the match venue yesterday.
“Fischer [Kondowe], Niikiza Aimabre and Chimwemwe Kunkwawa have all been roughed up and our technical director [TD] has gone to report the matter to Dwangwa Police. We are trying to get hold of FAM competions manager Gomezgani Zakazaka to assure us about our team’s safety, otherwise we are not playing tomorrow [today],” said Moyo.
Zakazaka could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.
However, commenting on the game, Mafco coach Thomas Maloya hoped to finally beat Bullets in cup game after two botched bids.
“We are going for revenge because we can no longer continue to be booted out from various competitions by the same team. We want to win this trophy,” he said.
Bullets will rely on striker Chiukepo Msowoya to get the goals while hoping that midfielders McFarlen Ngwira, Fischer Kondowe and Kondwani Kumwenda will be able to lock up the Mafco back line with killer passes while hoping that Miracle Gabeya, Emmanuel Zoya will marshal the defence with solidity.
The hosts have the weaponry to destroy the enemy too. Striker Richard Mbulu is as lethal as the mostly deadly sniper while Stain Malata and rejuvenated winger Bernard Harawa are always handy to offer offensive supporting roles with precision and dedication.
Meanwhile, Prison United through their assistant coach Julius Magombo, have declared that they will cause an upset against Wanderers this afternoon.
“We have confidence and faith in our players. Our target is to go all the way to the finals and win the cup, we are looking beyond Saturday’s match,” said the upbeat coach.
However, the Nomads team manager Stevie Madeira said being the cup holders, they are aware of the challenges they have to surmount in the quest to defend it.
“Of course, we are aware of how hard this game will be and we are not throwing caution to the wind.
“We will jealously defend this cup so that it remains at Lali Lubani Road,” he said. n