Kamuzu Stadium is expected to turn into a boiling pot of emotions this afternoon with the latest staging of the explosive Blantyre derby between traditional arch-rivals Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers in the never-ending duels for supremacy.
As usual, the commercial city has been gripped by a wave of football fever in the countdown to the TNM Super League showdown.
Even natural elements appear to acknowledge the importance of the special occasion and, cold conditions which had turned Blantyre into a mini-version of London in the week, leading to the big game, suddenly gave way to sunshine.
While the derby is important in terms of its billing, there has been too much talk, especially from those of the old school that the contests today are a poor imitation of the golden old days.
Nevertheless, a meeting between the two Blantyre big guns remains the most followed on the domestic scene. Thousands of fans are expected to troop to the ceremonial home of Malawi’s football for yet another episode of the ‘Battle of Blantyre’.
The showdown comes barely a week after the flagship league rolled into life and both teams won their opening games. The Nomads edged Epac 2-1 while Bullets saw off Blantyre United 3-0.
While Bullets star forward Gabadinho Mhango continues to hog the limelight, the centre of focus this afternoon will definitely be Nomads’ new coach, Stuart Mbolembole.
The sudden firing of Felix Fosiko, saw Mbolembole being thrown into the deep end in what will be his second stint as coach at Lali Lubani Road.
But Mbolembole on Friday insisted that he is not in a cold sweat.
“Pressure will always be there, but I am at peace with myself. I am calm and hoping for a good start,” said Mbolembole.
He also said his backroom staff, in particular his deputy Albert ‘Kika’ Mpinganjira and team manager Chiyembekezo Zidana, will help him in the cause.
The Nomads have a score to settle with Bullets having lost last season’s second round league fixture 3-0. However, they won the first round fixture 2-1.
In a rather light-hearted stuff, Bullets general secretary Higger Mkandawire said they will give Mbolembole a welcome he deserves this afternoon.
“I urge him to be strong because this will just be the start of a tough journey,” said Mkandawire.
The remarkable resilience shown by Bullets since last season has been a refreshing throwback to their golden era when they, powered by an indomitable spirit, were the domestic football kings.
Their coach Eddington Ng’onamo down played the derby hype, saying it will be just like any other game.
“In terms of pride, there is a lot at stake, but we are ready. Our focus is to win the league,” he said.
Gabadinho is the defining symbol of the ultimate forward—that searing pace, that close control, that grace as he suddenly bursts into full pace, that smile and, oh boy, those super goals.
He claimed a double in the previous encounter and he is expected to turn on the magic again this afternoon aided by either Diverson Mlozi or former Nomad, Lawson Chilewe, who struck a brace against United last weekend.
As usual, James ‘Terminator’ Chilapondwa is expected to keep the engines running at the heart of the pitch aided by the combative promptings of Chimango ‘BlackBerry’ Kayira while on the other side it will be Alfred Manyozo Jnr and Jacob Ngwira.
Fischer ‘Anong’a’ Kondowe and Douglas ‘Chibadula’ Chirambo will orchestrate play from the wings where they will face Nomads promising new catch Omega Mhone and either Mike Kaziputa or Benard ‘Benzo’ Harawa.
Upfront, the Nomads will look up to Victor Mpinganjira and Cuthbert Sineta.
As of yesterday, Bullets were trying to finalise transfer negotiations of Dalitso Sailesi and Brown ‘Fisi matama’ Mizeyi while the Nomads were trying to have diminutive forward Tony Chitsulo and Civo United key defender Pilirani Makupe cleared.
The big tie is scheduled to start at 2.30pm.