Club football is back with a bang as last year’s most successful teams—Nyasa Big Bullets, Be Forward Wanderers, Masters Security and Blue Eagles—tussle in the Ecobank Charity Shield, a tourney that marks the dawn of the new season.
The two-day soccer fiesta kicks off at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre this afternoon with TNM Super League champions Bullets dating Airtel Top 8 winners, Eagles, while Fisd Challenge Cup victors, Wanderers, face off with Carlsberg Cup champions, Masters.
The winner of the two semi-finals will clash in the final at the same venue tomorrow which will be curtain-raised by the losers’ contest to determine third-place.
Bullets will surely storm into the match consumed with a spirit of vengeance after Eagles beat them 1-0 in the Airtel final, not long ago.
In Bullets, the cops know pretty well that they are not confronting an ordinary outfit. The People’s Team has won all the previous Shields even when the odds were stacked against them.
But Eagles coach DeKlerk Msakakuona is determined to cause another upset.
“Every team that will play there has a trophy which means they are capable of winning this shield. This is the spirit we go into this competition with,” he said.
Msakakuona, however, warned his charges against building their faith on their Airtel Top 8 triumph saying this was a different game altogether.
“We beat them on July 1, 2018 and this Shield match is on March 30, 2019. It is a different match altogether. All we need is focus and determination,” he said.
If Msakakuona earns the targeted victory, he will get significant credit for slaughtering the giants in pressured circumstances. When playing at home, Bullets, as history has it, are the truest example of footballing resilience.
Against Masters, Wanderers also encounter a familiar face. This is an adamant side that snatched the Carlsberg Cup from their noses in that final last year.
However, that is not getting into the Nomads heads as their team manager Steve Madeira claims their victory was a fluke.
“We are not in any way intimidated because we know their win was just a one-off thing. If they are coming into this match oozing with confidence that they can pull another win, then they will be in for a huge surprise,” he said.
Madeira also pointed out that one of their key objectives is to end their bitter rivals Bullets’ stretched grip on the trophy.
“We will showcase to the football fraternity the squad we have in store for the new season,” he said.
Wanderers will likely showcase their new signings who include Babatunde Adepojo and Francis Mkonda, signed from Masters Security where they were the team’s key men last season.
Looking forward to the game, Masters coach Abbas Makawa said he does not expect Wanderers to play the same as last season.
“In fact, it is difficult to prepare for these matches because a lot of things have changed. Teams have new players and obviously their play pattern is different. All we will do is to play our game without studying our opponents much,” he said.
Makawa warned the other teams that they (Masters) are venturing into the tournament with a heart to win the shield.
Masters have strengthened their squad with new faces that include former Bullets midfielder Kondwani Kumwenda. The Lilongwe-based ambitious side has also roped in former Bullets trainer Eliah Kananji who in as assistant trainer.
The Ecobank Charity Shield, an annual event organised by the Football Association of Malawi (FAM), is this year being played under the theme ‘One Love-Stop the Killings’ a rallying cry against killings of persons with albinism in the country. n