The three teams that have earned promotion into the Super League—Chikwawa United, Karonga United and Airborne Rangers—have said they have done their homework to ensure that they survive relegation in their maiden season.
This comes against the background that in the past two seasons, Kamuzu Barracks [KB] were the only promoted team out of six that stood the heat.
Last season, all the three teams—Mzuzu United, Mponela and Evirom—were relegated back to the regional second-tier leagues, whereas in the previous season, Bvumbwe Research and Kabwafu were also demoted.
Southern Region Football League (SRFL) Premier Division champions Chikwawa United have said based on their pre-season friendlies, they are not far from matching the quality of the top-flight league.
Said the club’s director Owen Chomanika: “From our findings, you need to have quality in depth coupled with a bit experience and financially sound to stand the heat in the Super League.
“So far, we have played four games against Super League teams that gave us plenty of food for thought on what to expect up there and I should admit that it’s going to be tough.”
Chikwawa have lost all their build-up matches against Super League teams [2-0 to Big Bullets, 1-0 to Mighty Wanderers, 5-3 to Blantyre United and 2-0 to Azam Tigers], but Chomanika is still optimistic his side will not be relegated.
“It has been a good learning experience and I believe that by the time the league starts, we will be ready for the challenge since we have identified the areas that we need to work on,” said Chomanika.
He said the Lower Shire Valley side has roped in Under-20 national team assistant coach and former Big Bullets mentor Gerald Phiri Snr to beef up the technical panel.
Responding to a question on whether his team is financially sound to meet the demands of playing in the top-flight league, Chomanika said: “We are still financially handicapped, the potential corporate partners that we approached have only made promises that they could consider us after the tripartite elections.
“But I am optimistic that with the programmes that we have put in place, we will make it.”
Chomanika said their budget in the lower league was about K4.5 million and their preliminary estimated budget for the Super League is K12 million.
Karonga United were declared NRFL champions, but the matter is under dispute as Mzuzu University FC are contesting the outcome and the issue is now in the hands of the FAM arbitration committee.
However, the club’s chairperson Pezani Simama and coach Kondwani Mwalweni said they are set for the big stage having landed sponsorship from Simama General Dealers and the community in Karonga, in particular businesspersons who have also pledged to support financially.
“Currently, we are on a serious recruitment drive whereby we are targeting experienced and young promising players. Some of them are Under-17 national soccer team graduates who are now with the Under-20,” said Simama.
The new faces include Pachalo Ngwira [formerly Escom United], Charles Sikwewa [formerly Kabwafu, Moyale and Mighty Wanderers], Khumbo Msowoya [Civo United], Donald Zgambo [Kradd Eagles], Under-20 internationals Mathias Nyirenda and Foster Chikweza and U-17 international Green Msowoya.
On the prospects of players’ energy getting drained as they will have to play three quarters of their matches over 200 kilometres away from their base, Simama said: “We are in the process of strategising all that and when we get the fixture, we’ll be able to come up with a proper programme that should not take the toll on the players.
For instance, in the event that we have to play two consecutive weeks in the South or play in the Centre and then in the South, then there will be need to return to Karonga and our sponsor and other well-wishers have committed financial assistance. Our sponsor has already asked us to present our budget.”
CRFL champions Airborne Rangers spokesperson Lieutenant Chance Nyembezi said: “As for us, we can’t complain, our preparations are on track. So far, we have played four friendly matches that have helped us tune up for the Super League. We beat the champions Silver Strikers 1-0, lost to Zomba United 3-0, drew with Moyale 3-all.
On beefing up their squad, Lieutenant Nyembezi said: “The coaching panel is currently looking at who we can sign so that we have a strong side.”
KB team manager Francis Shawa said promoted teams struggle in the Super League due to lack of proper planning.
“The reason why, we were able to survive was that we conducted a thorough review to find out why promoted teams find it tough in the Super League and we established that one of the crucial factors was the gap in standards between the Super League and the lower leagues.