An increased sponsorship package, a foreign touch and a new theme— ‘Our Players, Our Heroes, Our Pride’, the expectation is that the 2015 TNM Super League, which rolls into life this afternoon, should set high standards in terms of quality and find a rallying cry that should spice up its brand.
With the winner’s prize money hiked to K15 million, two West Africans—Ghanaian Sam Siaw and Lionel Asu from Cameroon— set to add some extra flavour to the domestic flagship league, the entertainment should be compelling and the drama uncontrollably ceaseless.
Past immediate champions Silver Strikers host defending champions Big Bullets to set the ball rolling as they clash in a launch game at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe. The showdown is expected to drive the turnout through a bewildering gut of emotions following the Bankers’ move to pull a fast one on the People’s Team and snatch last season’s most improved player Victor ‘Vibre’ Limbani and Tizgobere Kumwenda, under their nose.
After spending last season at Bullets on loan from Blantyre United, the two are expected to be the centre of focus as they are tipped to make their debut in skyblue and white colours this afternoon.
Limbani hogged the limelight after inspiring Bullets to league title and Carlsberg Cup success last season while Kumwenda was their top scorer in the 2015 CAF Champions League campaign with two goals, and no wonder their departure created a sense of displeasure and frustration among Bullets faithful to the effect that some feel the duo is irreplaceable.
Silver coach Stan Chirwa yesterday confirmed that both Limbani and Kumwenda passed the psychological test and will be available for selection in today’s encounter.
“Psychologically, it is not that easy for a player to make a debut against his former club and it was important that we examine their mental preparedness and we are satisfied that they are ready,” said Chirwa.
Limbani also said he is ready to face his former team.
“Football is a profession whereby your loyalty is always to your current club. I had a good time at Bullets and I thank them for providing me the opportunity to replenish my skills to perfection.
“But now I am starting a new lease of life as a Silver player. I have to commit myself 100 percent to my new employers,” said Limbani.
Chirwa also said although they lost to foreign clubs four key players namely Charles Swini, Frank Banda and Chawanangwa Kaonga [Mozambique] and Young Chimodzi Jnr [India] during off-season, they have found suitable replacements.
“We already had a deep squad and apart from Limbani and Tizgobere, we have also signed Ghanaian Siaw, Chimwemwe Chisambi from Kaporo United and Nation Harazi from Hardknockers, so I can safely say we are ready.”
Chirwa also said starting the marathon on level terms with other teams gives him confidence of reclaiming the title honours.
“We started at minus nine points last year due to the punishment we got from Sulom [for the violence that ocurred in Balaka], but this time we will be on level terms with the rest. However, I would rather we bear the pressure as coaches other than the players.”
Bullets technical director Billy Tewesa said despite some technical and administrative hitches, they are ready for the match.
“As I said, we are just going to Lilongwe to fulfil the fixture as per Sulom’s wish and when we are ready people will know. Nevertheless, the players are determined to give out their all because we wouldn’t want to start the title defence race with a loss,” he said.
Tewesa further said Bullets plunge into this afternoon’s battle with their backs to the wall as five key players—goalkeeper Vincent Gona, defender Miracle Gabeya, midfielders James Chilapondwa, Henry Kabichi and Jelesi Lufeyo, are out with injuries.
But burly forward Chiukepo Msowoya and two other new signings—Peter Nyambose and Eneya Banda—are available for selection.
To mark the launch of the league, TNM has lined up a number of activities aimed at creating fun and entertainment. Among them will be music performances by Skeffa Chimoto, ‘the Jaming Machine’ and Simon and Kendall of the ‘Nyemba Nyemba’ fame, games and competitions outside the Stadium from 10am, according to its chief commercial officer Dan Makata.
In other matches scheduled for this afternoon, Surestream FC and Dedza Young Soccer play their first top-flight league game s against Blue Eagles and Moyale at Kamuzu and Dedza stadiums respectively.
Surestream’s technical director Peter Mponda said: “It is a very important match for us being the first in the Super League. The way we perform tomorrow [today] could give us a picture of how prepared we are.”
In Zomba, Red Lions host Civil Service (Civo) United while Airborne Rangers engage Azam Tigers at Chitowe in Dwangwa.