The hour is finally here. Malawi flag-carriers in 2019 Confederation of African Football (CAF) club competitions launch their campaigns as they face unfamiliar foes in the preliminary round first legs that promise fireworks.
Nyasa Big Bullets host Zimbabwe’s FC Platinum at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre while Masters Security are playing away to Plorine of Uganda in Kampala.
Bullets coach Callisto Pasuwa is no stranger to Zimbabwe football, having coached the country’s giants Dynamos and this afternoon he faces compatriot FC Platinum head-coach Norman Mapeza.
While Mapeza just returned to work this week after a sick leave during which the team’s preparations were under his assistant coach Lizwe Sweswe, Pasuwa has been polishing up Bullets since the draw pitted the two sides against each other.
After a bad spell in TNM Super League that almost cost him his job, Pasuwa finally restored the trust of Bullets supporters after edging Silver Strikers 3-1 last week.
The result lifted the spirits of the team ahead of today’s showdown and Pasuwa hopes his youthful team can replicate what they did to Silver as he aims at going beyond the preliminary.
But the tactician knows it is going to be suicidal to underrate the experienced 2018 Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League (ZPSL) champions and ZPSL Castle Challenge Super Cup winners.
“Like I said before, Platinum have a slight edge over us in terms of experience. They have been in Champions League for a while. Last year they qualified for the group stage. I have been following them. It’s a team that is good at possession. They don’t play second fiddle on the ball. They like building up from the back going forward.
“But we have encouraged our boys to represent Malawi. They are young and inexperienced but I think they are ready for such a challenge. We are going for results. We would have loved to start away and finish at home. But football is football. We have to accept the situation and produce results at home and finish away,” said Pasuwa.
The Midlands Province-based outfit are indeed no pushovers. Though they lost some key players in the ongoing transfer window, they beefed up their squad with Tawana Chikore, Evidence Tendayi, Guyve Mawete Nsilia, Panashe Mutimbanyoka, Keith Madera and Kelvin Mangiza.
“With what is already at our disposal, I think we have the strength to reach the group stages and we will continue working hard to achieve this. What is important for this competition is to have enough preparations both physical and physiological. We are working very hard for this tournament as well as the league,” Sweswe said.
As Bullets are at home, ill-prepared Masters will be hoping for a miracle in Kampala.
After announcing during the week that they had to no funds to travel to Uganda, they miraculously managed to make it at the eleventh hour.
Though their preparations have been shoddy, coach Abbas Makawa sounded confident in an interview from Kampala.
“We are ready for the match despite all the challenges. We will go for a win or at least a draw so that we are not under pressure when we play the second leg at home,” he said.
Makawa says he is hopeful that his charges will put aside their grievances and concentrate on this afternoon’s CAF Confederation Cup preliminary round first-leg tie against Proline FC away in Uganda.
“I have told my players to shelve the concerns they have and focus on the match because it could provide them a window of opportunity to be spotted by agents and some Ugandan clubs.
“So, I am hoping that they will be in the right frame of mind and give out their best,” he said.
The return legs are set for the weekend of August 23 to 25.