They all rose from their seats in the open stands—a galaxy of blue-and-white colours—to salute an unlikely hero Elia Kananji after guiding their team to a significant Carlsberg Cup final triumph as Civo Stadium in Lilongwe danced to the Nomads tune.
The colours beamed brightly in the spring sunshine, their faces were all painted with happiness, some screamed and others cried as the power of triumph conquered their spirits and turned them into symbols of glory.
There were scenes so lively that should have only been fit for the eyes of the angels in their flight, the Nomads had eased the pain they had inflicted on their loyal fans and it was time to repay them for their faith.
This was not just an ordinary win, it was hugely significant in that not only did they win the cup, but they won it against their age-old rivals—Big Bullets—who represent the ultimate enemy.
To add extra spice, they also halted the People’s Team’s lengthy unbeaten run.
Kananji, looking regal in a safari suit, waved to the Nomads faithful chanting his name as he enjoyed the moment that finally sealed his union with a group of fans who used to represent the biggest rival during his stint with Bullets.
After all, it was under Kananji’s tutelage the previous season that Bullets beat Wanderers in all their three competitive meetings (twice in the Super League and the other in a semi-final of the Carlsberg Cup) and he will undoubtedly remain in the memory of the Bullets fans as the brilliant conductor of that orchestra.
The Nomads’ faithful scrambled to shake his hand as the two parties sealed a marriage that could only have been made in heaven. It was celebration time for the blue side of town and they turned the arena into a theatre of celebrations.
“Kananji has brought us joy at LaliLubani Road. It has been quite sometime since we last won a cup. Watimwetsawamkaka.
“I was one of those that were suspicious of the club leadership’s move to hire him. There was a time I though he was a Bullets plant, but he has proved me wrong,” remarked the Nomads’ flamboyant fan YonaMalunga.
In just over a year, Kananji has written a fairy-tale success story—ending Bullets’ 10-year Super League title drought last season and spicing it up with Carlsberg Cup honours, then crossing the floor to the opposition and guiding the Nomads to win the same cup.
Half way through last season, Wanderers were barely recognisable as a football giant and were second from the bottom of the league table, but fast-forward to the same stage this season, they are third—tied on points and goal difference with second-placed Azam Tigers, but separated by goals scored.
Elsewhere, a coach is judged by results and to win three silverware within two seasons, is proof that he is a good tactician.
Three seasons ago, he nearly led an average Blantyre United side to win the title, but they finished a respectable third position amid reports of alleged match-fixing among some players.
“One other special credential that Elia has is that he is a good motivator.He knows how to handle players and get the best out of them. Coaching is a combination of factors and the way you relate with players is also crucial and apart from tactical ability Elia possesses that special element,” says Fisd Wizards technical director and former Flames captain Peter Mponda.
That said, Bullets’ last season success and Wanderers revival goes beyond Kananji’s magic.
Last season, Bullets, under the leadership of Kondi Msungama, revived the team by not only roping in Kananji, but also beefing up the playing squad with players such as Pilirani Zonda, Mussa Manyenje, Bashir Maunde, Jaffalie Chande, Miracle Gabeya and Mussa Manyenje.
Similarly, there are a combination of factors that have helped rejuvenate the Nomads—acquiring Be Forward sponsorship which saw them invade the market and beef up their squad with the likes of Jabulani Linje, Rafiq Mussa, Isaac Kaliati, Stanely Sanudi, Malumbo Gondwe, Cameroonian Lionel Asu and more recently Victor Nyirenda and Alfred Manyozo Jnr.
Beefing up the technical panel with Kananji and seasoned tacticians—Yasin Osman and Eddie Ng’onamo—coupled with sound administration by the likes of general secretary Mike Butao, has also contributed to the change of fortunes at Lali Lubani Road.