Big Bullets FC have for a long time wore the ugly face of local football.
The countryâ€™s most successful team has been associated with fans rowdy behaviour and mal-administration that has led to the collapse of a number of potential sponsorship deals.
But today the team is a model of Malawi football after achieving a drive that appeared impossible; commercialisation and self-reliance.
By this time last year, Bullets were heading for extinction and were barely recognisable as one of the countryâ€™s football powerhouses. They did not have any physical asset, no penny in the bank, no income generating source and even some of their fans deserted them, as the fight over the control of the team, raged on.
Fast forward to April 2012, the team is rewriting a new chapter and has successfully laid commercialisation structures and is now self-reliant.
Things look good and promising in the red side of town. The team now has a club house secured last yearâ€” after almost 43 years since of existence. Their fund-raising activities are on course and well patronised that over K10 million has been raised from the initiatives.
Players are happy. They no longer play on an empty stomach. They are paid dues in time and travel by a team bus. The team no longer worries about bumpy and waterlogged training pitches like Kamba and Kanjedza as they now train at St Andrews High School.
The football fraternity was for decades made to believe all this was impossible, until the supporter appointed an executive board to run the teamâ€™s operations in April last year.
As chairperson Malinda Chinyama explained in an interview during the week, it had to take strong stand to get rid of what he called â€˜Malawiâ€™s football common cancerâ€™ to get the team on track.
“Most football administrators on the local scene are not serious and only aspire for positions for personal gains.
“Our first step was to get rid of the board of trustees because we felt they were a source of confusion in the teamâ€™s set-up. Most of them were there to safeguard their personal interests at the expense of the club. Instead, We went on to form a board of directors who are business-minded, we later on became shareholders” he said.
One remarkable achievement is how the board has won the hearts of the hard-to-please Bullets who virtually dictated the running of the team including controlling gate collections and team selection.
Their behaviour jeopardised a number of potential sponsorship deals with Mapeto David Whitehead and Sons Limited, OG Issa, Mulli Brothers Group of Companies, Cifu Investments, Petroda and Total Malawi in the past seven years.
But the fans are beginning to realise their role and are no longer involved in the actual operations of the team. They patronise the teamâ€™s activities in large numbers and are now more concerned about cheering the team from the stands than interfering in its administration.
“They [fans] still have powers since they are an integral part of the club, but we have just outlined their limits. In the past, most of the fans lived on belief that they solely owned the team, which to a certain extent was a wrong perception
“We explained facts and issues on our plans to rebuild the team. They have been monitoring our progress and seeing we are walking the talk, they are behind us,” said Chinyama.
Bullets supporters committee interim chairperson Kadango Gama said supporters have the trust in the new leadership because it has the welfare of the team at heart.
“They really want to turn around the fortunes of the team. They are investing into the team from their personal money. We decided it was time to move with times and help resurrect the team,” he said.
Bullets FC have planned to raise K40 million (about $240 000) this year and within a month they have already raised K4 million from fund-raising ventures..
“The club house alone is giving us K600 000 (about $3 592) a month. We have already printed 5000 membership cards that will sell at K500 (about $2.99) each.
“The team is now a limited company and we are planning to employ a general manager to head a fully-fledged secretariat to be operational from next month. In five years we want to have Bullets village where we will have our own training ground, offices and a club.
“But we are still looking for corporate partners. We were working on getting a product that will attract sponsors in these tough economic times and we feel we are on course,” said Chinyama.
Results are also coming on the field as the team has managed to qualify for the finals of the Fellowship Association of Malawi (Fama) Top Eight, which is their first final appearance in five years.
“We are now motivated because our welfare is being taken care of and the future looks bright. We want to win this cup as a token of appreciation to the new management,” said captain Fundi Akidu.