Local clubs have for the past 40 years struggled in the CAF tournaments, having managed to cruise past the preliminary stages on 11 occasions in 21 attempts and reached the group stages only once, statistics show.
Though the record might foretell doom, this year’s representatives in the continental competitions Nyasa Big Bullets and Masters Security have vowed to overturn the hand of fate and succeed.
Carlsberg Cup winners Masters need to overcome a 3-0 deficit against Uganda side Proline FC at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe in the Confederation Cup preliminary round second-leg this afternoon.
On their part, Bullets face Zimbabwe champions FC Platinum in Bulawayo in the CAF Champions League (CL) preliminary round. Having drawn 0-0 in their home match, the People’s Team will need, at least, a scoring draw to progress.
Bullets have made the most appearances in CAF competitions. They first represented the country in 1976. In 11 attempts in CL, Cup Winners’ Cup (now Confederations Cup) and the disbanded African Cup of Champions Clubs, only on three occasions did they fail to progress past the preliminary rounds.
The People’s Team were also the first local side to reach the CL group stages in 2005. They brushed aside South African giants Orlando Pirates, Uganda’s AS Villa and Zambian outfit Zanaco to go that far.
In an interview, Bullets assistant coach Peter Mponda, who was in the team that reached the group stages, expressed hope that his side has a chance to replicate the success.
“Yes, Malawian teams have struggled but it’s not this generation. I believe this generation will bring smiles to our supporters,” he said.
Mponda said he draws his inspiration from the investment which Nyasa Manufacturing Company is injecting into the team, which he likened to the 2004 side.
He said: “That team played together for a long time, and remember when we reached the group stage; it was when former president [Bakili Muluzi] was sponsoring it. That’s why I am saying this Bullets side will go far.”
Focusing on the match against Platinum, Mponda said they still stand a chance to progress though he admitted it will take some massive fight.
Be Forward Wanderers are the second most experienced with CAF tournaments having made five appearances in which they went past the preliminary round three times.
Silver Strikers (twice) and disbanded MDC United and Sucoma made rare appearances in the continental competitions and were booted out in the preliminary stages.
Football analyst Madalitso Phiri said Malawian clubs’ lack of success is down to lack of exposure having failed to compete on several occasions.
“The past has shown that we have struggled as country to do well, but losing hope will be more disastrous. If our players keep on playing at that high level, there will be great improvement in our play and results will turn for the better,” he said.
Phiri also gave Bullets a chance to progress against Platinum, but dismissed Masters’ chances of survival.
“Bullets stand a chance because they didn’t concede in the first leg. If they manage to score away, it could prove vital. For them to score they need to be decisive in the final third. This is where they lacked at home,” he said.
Masters first played in the CAF tournament last year they were trounced 5-0 on aggregate by Angola side Petro Atlético de Luanda in the preliminary stage.
Now against the Ugandans, Masters coach Abbas Makawa while admitting they are facing a daunting task was defiant that they still stand a chance.
“Football is dynamic. We will try as much as possible to win. We just have to be clinical upfront and defend cautiously,” he said.