Raised expectations and then dashed hopes. This line, in its simplicity, sums up the story of clubs which, eight months ago, nurtured multi-coloured dreams of winning the TNM Super League title.
But as the season ends tomorrow, the rest of the 14 teams, relegated or not, will be watching in speechless admiration, as Big Bullets players lift the trophy and a K15 million (about $23 294) cheque after playing Civo United.
However, as the wait for that ceremony at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe continues, Bullets rivals Be Forward Wanderers, are trying to establish what went wrong. The Nomads, in their primary post-mortem, believe lack of an assistant coach cost them.
If the Nomads excuse is funny, then Blue Eagles’ sounds funnier. The third-placed police side blames its unsuccessful bid on other teams, failure to beat Bullets—their closest rivals at some stage in the campaign.
Having secured multi-million kwacha sponsorship from Be Forward, Wanderers bought a bunch of talented players. In all fairness, they were widely viewed as favourites to win the title and end the 10 year fruitless jinx.
But the Nomads, despite winning the Carlsberg Cup, huffed and puffed in the league losing to the then relegation battlers Mzuni and inconsistent Civo United, among other teams.
It was only in recent matches that Wanderers rediscovered its form, but it was too little and too late as their arch-rivals Bullets had already claimed the title, Mafco had sealed the runners-up spot and Blue Eagles taken the the third slot.
The Elia Kananji men needed a 1-0 victory over Red Lions in their final fixture on Thursday to claim the fourth slot which has a consolation prize of K3.5 million (about $5 435).
Analysing the season, the Nomads’ general secretary Mike Butao said if they had an assistant coach, things could have turned out differently. He also attributed the late resurgence on the arrival, about two months ago, of seasoned tactician Jack Chamangwana as technical director.
“Jack has brought in a sense of maturity. We also feel that if we had an assistant coach to be sharing ideas with our coach our season could have been different,” he narrated.
As a way forward, Butao believes that recruitment of an assistant coach to work with Kananji and Chamangwana will improve their performance next season.
In his analysis, Blue Eagles assistant coach Willy Chidati said if other teams had beaten Bullets, his side could have been crowned champions this season.
“We did our part by holding them (Bullets) away and beating them at home. But other teams did not help because they kept on losing to Bullets,” he said.
Reminded that for a team to win a title it is supposed to bag more points on its own rather than waiting for other teams to defeat its rivals, he responded: “There comes a time when you need luck to win the title and that luck comes from other teams collecting points from your rivals. Sadly, this luck didn’t come to us.”
The assistant coach, however, hopes that his side will mount an improved title bid next season because of the cohesion in the team.
“The players have known each other better and we hope that next season we will bounce back much stronger than we are now,” he said.
Meanwhile, after losing to Wanderers, Red Lions missed a top six finish and automatic qualification into the Standard Bank Cup. The soldiers coach Pritchard Mwansa, summing up their season, blamed the suspension of eight of their players in May. n