In just two sublime movements pregnant with trickery, Airborne Rangers’ Josiah Duwa ripped life out of invincible Big Bullets when he struck the priceless goal that ended their unbeaten run in the TNM Super League last week.
The ‘red army’ was left stunned as Duwa turned on the magic—in an unforgettable two-minute spell that was the defining moment of this game—he found himself at the right place and at the right time to provide the final flourish and end the People’s Team’s remarkable run in over 25 league matches (including last season).
The world of sport and football in particular, has always been charmed by feel-good stories of an underdog suddenly defying the odds to beat an odds-on favourite like it was in the sweltering heat of the sugarcane fields in Dwangwa as Chitowe Stadium danced to the Salima-based paratroopers’ tune.
And it came as no miracle for Airborne to stun Bullets into submission.
The wave of happiness among delirious ganyu (mercenary) fans pouring out of Chitowe Stadium, was a sight to behold as they celebrated an underdog’s victory that cheered the spirits of many.
But while the loss ignited tales of doom and gloom for Bullets, especially coming after another loss to Civo United in a Standard Bank Knockout Cup match, it is far too early to suggest that Bullets are losing the plot and might not defend the title.
And as their team manager Rahim Ishmael said, the loss to Airborne could be a blessing in disguise as there is now some pressure off.
“We expected to lose at some point anyway because pressure was taking its toll, but honestly we did not expect to lose to Airborne.
“Nevertheless, it provides as with a breath of fresh air,” said Ishmael.
Despite the loss, Bullets are still seven points clear and with a two-game cushion. It is still a tall order for teams that are second and third respectively to catch up or overtake them.
Football analyst Charles Nyirenda said it was expected that Bullets would tumble at some point.
“They were up against a team fighting to stay afloat in the league. Don’t forget that in the back-to-back losses that they suffered, they scored first, but the fighting spirit of the opposition like an upsurging Civo and a vigilant Airborne, turned the tide against them,” said Nyirenda.
Key to Bullets’ fate lies in the degree to which the chasing group can remain consistent, otherwise in as far as Bullets’ bid is concerned, it could all be just academic should the other teams continue to be erratic.
“Had they been steadfast, Bullets would have had every reason to get concerned, but the way things are at the moment, Bullets do not have to panic,” observes Nyirenda.
“Other teams will write off Bullets at their own peril, otherwise they did enough in the first round to stay ahead to the finishing line.”
However, former Be Forward Wanderers and Flames defender Ojukwu Malunga believes that Bullets’ two straight losses could motivate other teams.
“Of course, after two straight losses, they should be able to pick themselves up, but another slip could prove fatal in the event that the other title-chasing teams are consistent.
“So, it could also create pressure on the part of Bullets. It depends on which side you are looking at the scenario,” said Malunga.
But after all is said and done, the pressure is on the other teams to catch Bullets and that, in itself, is what is making the chasing pack to keep stumbling because they left it late and the task seems too much to accomplish.