Cometh the hour, cometh the men and cometh the derby.
Silver Strikers and Civil Sporting Club, the long standing Lilongwe foes, face off at Bingu National Stadium this afternoon in a tussle whose winner secures the Airtel Top 8 semi-final berth and the loser gets what they deserve—nothing.
This derby will, more than anything, be a clash of two cultures.
The Bankers have an explosion of pace and skill which, with perfect execution, can crash any soccer force on the land while Civil possess the undeniable determination and courage to survive any assault.
The manifestation of these qualities will most assuredly spur the derby, which at some point lost its appeal, onto highest clouds of soccer excellence.
Defending champions Silver Strikers have a leg
sown in the soils of the Promised Land having won the first leg 1-0, crucially away. At least a draw of any degree will secure them a place in the semifinals.
In all fairness, the Bankers have one of the tightest defences. In six matches this season, they have conceded three goals and recorded four clean sheets.
Fearless Chisomo Mpachika, Mike Roberts and Yinusa Sherrif have been the main actors in that defensive achievement. They are men who plant their heads where kicks dangerously fly. Like commandos in deadly battlefields, they risk it all.
Then, there is the midfield. Young Chimodzi Junior, playing a deep lying role, battles with unmatched zeal while Timothy Chitedze and Lazarus Nyemera spearheading assault on opponents.
In the attacking lines, the Bankers have the ever-present Mphatso Phillemon and Jack Chiona who lead the offensive frontiers with aggression, running around ceaselessly like a train without brakes.
Such is the scale of threat facing Civil but their manager Gabriel Chirwa, in an interview Thursday, sounded less intimidated. He proclaimed that there is a sense of belief in his camp.
“We have done our homework. We believe we can win the match and progress. Trailing 1-0 isn’t a result that bothers us much,” he said.
In all honesty, Civil were in self-destructive mood in the first match, having squandered a host of scoring chances but Chirwa is hoping for a better day.
“We have sharpened our attacking force and we are optimistic the boys will do a much better job this time around,” he said.
Civil are no longer the sad tale of the old. Haunted and hunted, they suffered relegation two years ago but by grace, they were saved from the yawning grave. Epac FC sacrificed their
Super League place and went down on their behalf.
Along with their old name, Civo, they left the ghost of failure in the tomb and are competitive again. Last season, they finished on position four in the league race and with that qualification into the Airtel Top 8.
Much as it is a side built on team work, Civil have some outstanding performers too. Lawrence Chazia, Willard Dickson and
Andrew Banda will most likely lead the defence but Gomezgani Chirwa, out with the national team at the Cosafa Challenge Cup, misses out.
Foot soldier Patrick Thupi and Jide Mbandambanda will, predictably, partner in midfield while in-form Raphael Phiri and new catch Blessings Tembo will carry the attacking hopes.
Past duels did not favour Civil much. They have only recorded a single derby victory in the last four years. Last season they were beaten twice in league encounters.
But Silver team manager Francis Songo reckons their opponents have what it takes to overturn the tables.
“Civil are enjoying rich form which has boosted their confidence going into the match. We don’t anticipate an easy match at all. But I can promise you that we will also give a good fight,” he said.
The Bankers will have to do without goalkeeper Brighton Munthali and midfielder Levison Maganizo, who are on Flames duty in Polokwane, South Africa.
Even that still leaves the Bankers with an assortment of arsenal to give a gallant fight