Big Bullets must forget about in-house wrangles and off-the-field distractions and fight an opponent lurking outside, Moyale Barracks, at Civo Stadium in the final of the K60 million (about $400 000) Presidential Cup.
The final was a subject of indecision, uncertainty and boardroom sparring. The date of the final was postponed thrice. That was not all, sponsor [Government], through the Ministry of Youth and Sports tried to wear another jacket of an organiser in dictating that the final, previously slated for the Kamuzu Stadium, be free of charge.
When Football Association of Malawi (FAM) argued that the finalists were too poor to be denied gate revenue and that making the match free of charge would compromise security at the ageing Kamuzu Stadium, government switched the match to smaller Civo Stadium for free again, but later changed its heart that fans must pay to watch the match.
Phew! Now, football finally will be the talking point in this meeting between cup strategists Moyale Barracks and a sleeping giant on its feet, Big Bullets. At stake is a K10 million (about $40 000) prize.
Bullets go into this battle smarting from a mini crisis following a fall out between the executive committee and the trustees who wanted accounts for the teamâ€™s finances.
If Bullets players show strong mental character, then there could be an explosion. Bullets boast probably one of the fiercest striking forces of Golden Boot Award overwhelming favourite Gabadinho Mhango, ever-busy Diverson Mlozi and man of all seasons, Heston Munthali.
How James Chilapondwa will shield the three-man defence while at the same time breaking Moyaleâ€™s attacks will also decide this game against the energetic soldiers who believe in holding out for a counter-attack or post-match penalties.
If Moyale needed a warning shot, then Bullets delivered one with the 3-0 thumping of the Malawi Under-17 at Kamuzu Stadium on Thursday in a friendly match.
“The win was a morale booster,” Bullets general secretary Higger Mkandawire insisted during the week. “There should be no question of players being distracted by the wrangles. Parents can quarrel, but children can still perform in school.”
Bullets last grabbed a worthwhile trophy in 2005. Their failure to claim the Fama Cup early this year only proved that theirs is work in progress.
The switch of the game from Blantyre to Lilongwe seems to have worked in favour of Moyale. Stand-in coach Themba Ntontholo boasted that he is ready to parade an array of stars such as the Simukonda brothers, Andy and Gastin who is back from army training, upfront with Fukizi brothers Crispin and Clifford ready to command the midfield.
“I rate our chances of lifting this cup we have never won at 90 percent. This is our motivation. Playing at Civo even makes our job easier as it is a neutral place which allows both teams to start on an equal footing,” said Ntontholo.
Moyale, who are seeking to repeat their 2008 exploits, when they denied Bullets a Standard Cup victory, have never reached this far in the Presidential Cup. Last season, they only managed a top-eight slot.
On the pitch, Moyale have veteran striker Victor Phiri, a trusted leader from the front. At the rear guard, they are not short of options and experience and Lameck Thindwa remains resolute and evergreen.
The only setback for the Kaningâ€™ina soldiers would probably be that their coach Nicholas Mhango rejoined the squad late on Thursday as he was preoccupied with Malawi Under-17 training. But Ntontholo insisted football is not a one-person show. It could also be a blessing in disguise as Mhango was able to analyse Bullets play.