At 2.38 pm today, Blantyre United players mounted a guard of honour for their Big Bullets counterparts trooping off Kamuzu Stadium dressing rooms and by 4.43 pm, they were ordained 2014 TNM Super League champions.
As captain of the day Sankhani Mkandawire lifted the trophy after finishing the campaign with a 3-0 win over United following Jelesi Lufeyo, Pilirani Zonda and Jimmy Zakakazaka’s 11th, 45th and 52nd minutes strikes, the party had just started in the red side of town.
With the unassailable 62 points, just two losses, home clean slate and least 18 goals conceded, Bullets, who received the trophy from Super League of Malawi (Sulom) president Innocent Botomani, had ended their nine-year wait to win the record 11th championship.
Coach Elia Kananji, the architect of this wonder season that yielded a double including Carlsberg Cup, missed the last game as he is in Zimbabwe on Malawi Under-17 duty, but the ‘who and who’ of the Bullets family turned up to bear witness that the wait for the K9 million (about $18 000) championship was truly over.
Maule/maule zimakoma chonchi, sung Salvation Army brass band at the covered stand, the fans invaded the pitch. Some rolled on the ground while punching loaves of bread and drinking milk. Others blew trumpets while the rest made their voices heard. Blantyre was on fire.
Consultant coach Nsazuwrimo Ramadhan and deputy coach Mabvuto Lungu joined players and fans in song and dance right as celebrations spread far and wide the country. The country’s most successful team is back on its feet.
“I am happy for the game that we kept a clean sheet and we kept character to show respect to soccer and supporters. It was a very good season. There was no bad team; everywhere I travelled, for example in Nkhotakota, you could see there were strong teams,” said Ramadhan.
Such occasions produce club legends and veteran winger Fischer Kondowe, who created many chances through crosses which Jaffalie Chande and Mussa Manyenje fluffed, claimed a milestone when collecting his seventh league title, thereby joining other cult heroes who have graced the red side of town.
James Chilapondwa, Chiku Kanyenda and Jimmy Zakazaka, surviving players from the Bullets squad that won the league in 2005, were also at the stadium to savour the feel-good moment.
There was a resounding culmination of Kananji’s attacking football balanced with a mean defence, wise K8 million investment in players, including the most expensive Manyenje and club chairperson Kondie Msungama’s appetite for success that saw him invite the Burundian Ramadhan to help arrest scoring impotence.
Bullets finished the season nine points clear of second placed Moyale Barracks who lost 2-1 to third-placed Blue Eagles at Nankhaka yesterday.
Moyale’s Gastin Simkonda finished the season as the top scorer with 17 goals.
In Lilongwe, visiting Azam Tigers FC spoiled Silver Strikers ambition of finishing on fourth position when they beat the hosts 1-0.
Bright Munthali’s goal in the first minute of the game was the killing dose for Silver who finished on a losing note.
Silver tried to come back in the game in the second-half creating hordes of chances, but their strikers Rodrick Gonani and Chawangwa Kawonga failed to convert goals.
The loss means Civo, who beat Kamuzu Barracks on Friday, have claimed the fourth spot.
“It was a very frustrating afternoon for us. We did all that is needed from a team except goals did not come. I cannot blame the players, they gave it all but we just could not score,” said Silver Coach Stain Chirwa.
Silver have finished on 42 points.
They started the season with a 9 point deficit as they were serving a punishment melted by Sulom for the Balaka violence
Tigers coach Franco Ndawa was all smiles after the match.