Combined ideas of disciplined defending, a midfield of remarkable driving force and a classical sense of attacking. In a nutshell, those were the cornerstones of Kamuzu Barracks (KB), the new Super League champions.
Before winning the title after trouncing Dwangwa United 4-1, the army outfit had passed through the valley of suffering that could have wrecked the title hopes of the faint-hearted. The pinnacle being a penalty-shootout loss to Be Forward Wanderers in the Fisd Challenge Cup. It was a heart-breaking story of bright prospects turning into ruins.
“That loss could have easily destroyed their title hopes,” former Moyale Barracks goalkeeper Alex Matete, a soldier based at Kamuzu Barracks, remarked, “I used to constantly meet them to encourage them to put the disappointment behind.”
But the Fisd Cup disappointment became the turning point as KB worked to the last atom of their strength in their remaining league matches. They gunned down Civo United, Blue Eagles, the toughest enemy on the battles lines, sent Karonga United back to the lower league before humiliating Dwangwa United to get the crown.
It seems KB were more energised by any setback they suffered on the way. After losing to Premier BetWizards, the army side picked seven wins that included victories over the then strong title contenders Silver Strikers and Blue Eagles, to haul 21 points.
Their coach Billy Phambala points out that the strongest foundation he laid after taking over last year was discipline.
“The biggest weapon in football is discipline. The way you defend and the way you attack, the players have to be disciplined through sticking to the game plan, one that ensures every player is working for each other,” he said.
Last season KB had the worst disciplinary record having accumulated 48 yellow cards while their defending midfielder Dave Banda received three red cards.
“The suspensions affected the team’s cohesion because it meant that most times we had to change the line-up frequently because some players were not available due to the suspensions,” forward Kelvin Hanganda analysed.
While KB found scoring an easy task, having netted 55 times, their title rivals stuttered in front of goal.
Second-placed Nyasa Big Bullets managed 43, third-placed Silver Strikers registered 45 while Blue Eagles, in fourth, scored 41.
Eagles, who were leaders after the first round, went the whole month of September without scoring a goal and that was the beginning of their fall.
“Our striking force was not strong enough to sustain the title momentum. It is an area we really need to polish up. Hopefully, we will find good strikers,” Eagles general manager Gabriel Chirwa said.
Silver Strikers played seven goalless draws this season alone, three of which came in October against Bullets, relegated Civo and Epac United. The Bankers went on to lose 4-2 to KB before being held to a goalless draw by Wizards.
Though Silver later returned to winning ways by beating Red Lions and Moyale Barracks, it was too little too late to play catch up with KB.
“Some of the games we drew or lost could have easily been won if we were sharp enough upfront. But you must also understand that we had a completely new team and it was a bit difficult for the players,” Silver coach Lovemore Fazili said.
Bullets failed to win a third straight title but their captain Chiukepo Msowoya said apart from lack of goals, the leadership instability affected the team.
The season saw Noel Lipipa replacing Sam Chilunga, Presidential Cup winning coach Franco Ndawa and technical director Billy Tewesa were kicked out, later general secretary Kelvin Moyo was suspended amidst match fixing storm and just last week assistant coach Mabvuto Lungu, team manager Rahim Ishmael and goalkeeper trainer Swadick Sanudi were sacked for “serious indiscipline.”
“All in all, it was a disappointing season,” Msowoya sums up.
From their own ruins and the disasters of their rivals, Kamuzu Barracks found their first Super League title. n