Spectators are an essential ingredient in the country’s most famous football fixture—the Blantyre derby—as they add intensity to the atmosphere.
But this afternoon, giants Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers clash in a kind of different Blantyre derby to be witnessed by just 250 spectators.
The fixture is back after a year due to delays in TNM Super League kick-off because of Covid-19.
For the first time in the country’s football history, the most sought after fixture will be played with a handful of fans after government eased restrictions on public gathering from 50 to 250 people.
But the two sides, who take pride in commanding the biggest following in the country, say this will not stop them from dishing out their best.
Both teams know that there is a lot at stake in this encounter. Second-placed Bullets have 25 points from 12 matches while the Nomads are a distant 10th with 17 points from 12 games as well.
Bullets are coming from a 2-1 victory over Civil Service (Civo) United who saw their unbeaten record halted.
But Bullets coach Callisto Pasuwa said this does not give the People’s Team an upper hand.
He said: “Wanderers are a good team and plays good football. They play from the back, keeping possession as much as they can. If you want to win a derby, you need to put everything in place. We need to squeeze them and shut them down by playing compact football.
“We have a squad that can compete throughout the game. We hope the better team of the day will win.”
His counterpart Bob Mpinganjira knows it’s high time Bullets’ seven year unbeaten league record against Wanderers was stopped.
He said he hopes his charges will continue with their revival.
“It’s a derby and anything can happen. But I am confident that we can collect maximum points. The boys know the importance of this game,” said Mpinganjira.
His captain Alfred Manyozo Jnr has a mammoth task to push his teammates to end Bullets’ dominance.
The holding midfielder said the Nomads’ supporters have cried for a long time and that history will not repeat itself.
Said Manyozo: “The fact that we have gone many years without beating Bullets in the league doesn’t really matter because this is another day, another game and another atmosphere.
“A derby is always a derby. It’s going to be competitive regardless of the history between the two teams. I think we are both in good form. We have won some games. I believe it’s going to be a good game.”
Interestingly, seven players are set to feature in their first ever Blantyre derby.
The Nomads’ player-of-the-moment midfielder Vitumbiko Kumwenda, striker Aubrey Maloya and defender Yinusa Sherriff will have a feel of what it takes to star in the Blantyre derby.
Sherriff said he looks forward to playing against Bullets in a Blantyre derby.
“This is my fourth time to play against Bullets. I have been playing against them when I was with Silver Strikers. But this is my first Blantyre derby. I know Bullets are a big team.
“But what I can say is that in our team we have quality players. We have players who can win for us. We will aim at winning, not drawing or losing the game. We are conquerors. We are Mighty Wanderers,” he said.
Bullets goalkeepers Richard Chimbamba and Clever Nkungula, midfielder Misheck Seleman and right back Blessing Mpokela will also be facing Wanderers for the first time.
Striker Zicco Nkanda will be facing his former team in the TNM Super League for the first time sice joining Bullets as a free agent.