After a season-break that was full of controversies which left unanswered questions on whether the TNM Super League would have 16 teams, football enthusiasts can heave a sigh of relief as action returns this afternoon.
The 2016 season kicks off after the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) succumbed to pressure to have all teams participate in the league despite failing to fulfil minimum requirements to obtain licences.
Moyale Barracks, Civo United, Epac FC, Kamuzu Barracks, Red Lions, Mafco, Max Bullets and Azam Tigers were told to meet the requirements by Thursday or risk missing the Super League.
But FAM club licensing manager Casper Jangale yesterday admitted that although the clubs are still below the benchmark to fulfil the requirements, they have been given the benefit of doubt.
Only six clubs—Be Forward Wanderers, Mzuni FC, Blue Eagles, Nyasa Big Bullets, Silver Strikers and new recruits Dwangwa United—were initially assured of participation.
“We have finally allowed these clubs to participate in the league because there is a likelihood that they will soon meet the requirements considering the progress they have made so far. Most of them are still below the 46 percent range to qualify for a provisional licence, but they will get the document because they are now working hard to get to that level,” Jangale said.
FAM says it will still monitor the clubs’ progress so that they should fulfil all licensing requirements, as per directive of the world football governing body Fifa, by the June deadline.
The league will, however, kick-off with 14 teams instead of 16. The remaining two teams will be known by Tuesday after the play-offs and promotion issues of the Simama Northern Region Football Association League are sorted out, according to Super League of Malawi (Sulom) general secretary Williams Banda.
Defending champions Nyasa Big Bullets launch their title defence against a new-look Moyale Barracks at Kamuzu Stadium.
Standard Bank holders Civo United host Kamuzu Barracks while Mafco will be at home, Chitowe Stadium, to Mzuni.
Tomorrow, the attention will be in Lilongwe where Silver Strikers host Be Forward Wanderers at Silver Stadium.
Red Lions will battle it out with Epac FC at Balaka Stadium.
Rookies Max Bullets will have the feel of Super League action against Azam Tigers at Kamuzu Stadium.
Dwangwa, who are back in the league after a five-year absence announce their return as they take on Blue Eagles at Chitowe Stadium.
Banda said they could only come up with this week’s fixtures as they try to sort out the mess they are in.
But most of the coaches expressed dismay with Sulom for failing to release full fixtures.
“As a coach, you need to know all the fixtures for at least the entire first round so as to strategise and make game plans for particular opponents. But it is sad that we only know about the games for this weekend,” said Dwangwa coach McDonald Mtetemera.
“There was no need to rush into kicking off the league when there are so many problems to sort out.”
Nyasa Big Bullets coach Franco Ndawa said they are trying their best to ignore the administrative problems the league is facing.
“Of course, these uncertainties are affecting our plans. However, we will falter in our title defence mission if we think too much about these problems,” Ndawa said.
The 2016 Super League kick-off hiccups started in February when relegated Dedza Young Soccer Saints obtained an injunction to stop play-offs involving relegated sides including Airborne Rangers and Wizards FC to identify a 16th team.
Dedza argued that they automatically qualified for the 16th slot since they finishing above Airborne and Wizards in the 2015 season.
The High Court ruled in favour of Dedza, but asked Sulom appeals committee to hear their case.
The appeals committee threw out Dedza’s case to pave the way for the play-offs.
The pulling out of Chilumba Barracks due to financial problems has also left a gap though Simama League runners-up Karonga United are the alternative.
But Sulom wants Malawi Defence Force to pay a K5 million fine or reverse the decision.