Soccer pundits in the country say the return of sponsorship, Bulletsâ€™ resurgence and improved standards of the game have led to local football wooing fans back to the stadiums.
The country has of late seen the return of sponsorship to domestic football.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM), Super League of Malawi (Sulom) and some football commentators have also said Big Bulletsâ€™ revitalisation and improvement in the quality of the game, have played a big role.
They feel the resilience shown by Bullets in recent times has been a refreshing throwback to their golden era when they, powered by an indomitable spirit, were the kings of the domestic football scene.
Commentators are optimistic that not even the return of the English Premier League (PSL), considered the most followed league in the world, will affect the excitement. The 2012/13 EPL season starts today [Saturday].
FAM and Sulom confirmed that the patronage at local games has increased noticeably this season compared to the past seasons, if the gate-takings are anything to go by.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said: “The improved performance by Big Bullets, who arguably have the biggest fan base, has fuelled the patronage.
“Over and above that, the coming on board of Carlsberg Malawi to sponsor the two crowd pullersâ€”Bullets and Wanderersâ€”has increased patronage at football matches.”
Nyamilandu noted that the sponsorship has rekindled the interest that soccer-loving Malawians had lost.
“This, in turn, has added to the excitement and the fans flock to the stadium to watch the fresh talent that has exploded on the big stage in the likes of Gabadinho Mhango, Gerald Phiri Jnr and John Banda. The revival of old-guards such as Joseph Kamwendo and Heston Munthali has also played a part.
“There has been a great buzz of excitement by the fans and many people have taken a keen interest to follow the matches that are being played by their clubs,” said Nyamilandu.
He also said the effects of the EPL kick off will not be significant because it is a different class of people.
“The fun at the stadium is more appealing to them [local fans] than watching EPL matches on TV,” he said.
Sulom general secretary Williams Banda said some of the reasons that contributed to low patronage were acts of hooliganism and poor standards of the game.
“In the recent past, we have seen improved civilisation among the supporters as well as standards of the game.
“Carlsbergâ€™s move to come to the rescue of BB and Wanderers; TNM and Standard Bank sponsorships as well as the introduction of the Presidential Cup have also added to the excitement.
“We cannot also ignore BBâ€™s resurrection because most of their fans are excited with their performance,” said Banda.
A Blantyre-based fan, Robert Tembo, said this seasonâ€™s campaign has set high standards in terms of the quality of the game that is on offer and the overall entertainment package that is delivered at the stadiums.
“For the past three seasons or so I was not watching local football regularly because I was disappointed with the poor standards and I turned to watching the English Premiership on TV.
“But the standards have improved in recent times and BBâ€™s resurrection has also added to the hype,” said Tembo.
Football commentator and former MBC TV head of sports Kelvin Moyo attributed the excitement mainly to Carlsberg Malawiâ€™s move to sponsor Bullets and Nomads.
“Until Carlsberg came to the two giantsâ€™ rescue, everything was happening in the capital [Lilongwe] where teams such as Silver Strikers, Blue Eagles and Civo United were dominating.
“The emergence of exciting young talent such as â€˜Gabadinhoâ€™, â€˜Papaâ€™ [Gerald Jnr] and the revival of experienced players such as Kamwendo has also added to the excitement,” said Moyo.
He also ruled out the possibility of the EPL affecting the excitement of the domestic game.
MBC sports producer and Sports Writers Association of Malawi (Swam) general secretary Frank Kandu said: “To me, the BB and Wanderers rivalry and the fight for [Carlsberg Malawi] sponsorship are the main contributing factors to the increase in patronage. This is so because every game the two teams are playing is attracting big crowds.
“This is not only happening in Blantyre but anywhere they go to play. At the same time, it is also worth mentioning that the growth in the level of competitiveness is also another factor because the standards of the game have improved.”