It’s over for Blantyre United. On Sunday, they became the third team to be relegated from the top-flight TNM Super League this season, virtually completing the relegation-bound list.
Blantyre’s fall from grace was confirmed by their 2-2 draw with Mafco at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
Coincidentally, all the relegated teams are ‘united in grief’ as their similarity extends to the name United.
The first to get the chop were Karonga United slightly over a fortnight ago and Chikwawa were next a week later. This means out of the three teams that were promoted from the lower league, only Airborne Rangers from the Central Region have survived.
The development further increases fears on the dwindling number of teams from the Southern Region, which will now have only five teams out of 15 in the coming season.
Blantyre coach Leo Mpulula said it is not surprising that his team’s four-year romance in the flagship league has come to an end as they did not have depth in quality.
“I would attribute our relegation to lack of depth in quality players. This team used to have quality players not long ago such as Bashir Maunde, Victor Limbani, Tizgobere Kumwenda, Sparrow Msowoya, Brown Mizeyi, Dalitso Sailesi and Charles Thupi, but when they left we did not replace them with equally good players,” said Mpulula.
He said he is at pains to accept the harsh reality that his team will be returning to the unfashionable second-tier league.
“When you are relegated, it is very difficult to recover and earn promotion back into the Super League. Teams such as Kabula [former Escom United], Bvumbwe Research and Evirom can bear testimony to that.
“But it has been a learning experience,” he said.
Blantyre United have 21 points from 26 games. Even if they win their remaining two games, they won’t go past Airborne Rangers who are a step above the relegation zone with 29 points.
Last week, Chikwawa United director Owen Chomanika partly attributed his team’s struggles to financial challenges.
“To survive in the national league, you need to have the financial muscle to enable you not only buy good players, but also run the affairs of the team,” said Chomanika.
Big Bullets general secretary Harold Fote said the continued reduction of teams from the Southern Region translates to more costs for those remaining as they will be travelling to the Centre not less than four times and a trip to the North.
He added that it is not surprising as they do not enjoy sound sponsorship compared to teams from the Centre.
“Our good performance this season is testimony that when you invest in good players, you reap the rewards. The donation [K25 million] we got from former president Joyce Banda coupled with proceeds from TNM Sapota Mapeto and gate,” he said.
Out of the 15 teams in the Super League, eight—Moyale Barracks, Blue Eagles, Red Lions, Civo United, Mafco, Silver Strikers, Kamuzu Barracks and Airborne are sponsored by government and five of them are in the top six of the league standings.