In this second instalment, Sportsxtra sticks its neck out on the chopping board, analysing how the 15 teams are likely to fare this season. Having won the title for three consecutive seasons, all eyes will certainly be on Silver Strikers. Steady sponsorship, depth in quality players, the Bankers are by far the best side on the land.
Mighty Wanderers Cup specialists of the decade, you can be certain that the Nomads will seize one of the trophies. But success at the famed Lali Lubani Road is measured in league superiority. To win a league, you need depth of quality players which Wanderers appear to fall short of. Goalkeeper Richard Chipuwa is top-class and so is underrated Alfred Manyozo Jnr.
But with talisman Joseph Kamwendo out and utility player Gerald Phiri Jnr also on his way out alongside others such as Gerald Chimbaka and Innocent Jere, Wanderers midfield looks thin on paper. Nafe Msasa is back, but Kamwendo’s shoes are too big for him to fill. You also tend to wonder how Wanderers will replace Foster Namwela for defenders in such mould and experience are few locally. Kondwani Lufeyo is good, but his small frame is some disadvantage.
Victor Mpinjanjira has proved to be a natural finisher, but he needs company upfront. Anthony Banda and Diverson Chilemba have never been consistent since leaving Civo United. Innocent Dzimbiri has all the attributes, but he is his worst enemy. Benard Harawa, Noel Mkandawire and Jacob Ngwira brings the experience, but the standards at Wanderers are too high. Questions will be asked how Wanderers let go hugely talented Ibrahim Sadiki. A cup looks a realistic possibility, but not the league.
In Collins Nkuna, the Zomba soldiers have a promising ambitious tactician, but the never-ending hiring and firing of key players renders his efforts helpless. The Lions deserve better. If they are to win silverware this season, they need to hold on to key players such as Boniface Kaulesi for the rest of the season. This seems unlikely, so the Lions will barely survive in the top eight.
After being in acting capacity since the late stages of last season, Thom Mkolongo has deservingly been elevated to head coach, but the Civil Servants lack serious ambition for silverware. A few games under Mkolongo suggest he is abandoning the traditional passing football and it might take time before the players adapt to the coach’s more direct play. Civo lack quality players in all departments. It is hard imagining Civo challenging for honours.
The Kau Kau boys should improve and barely survive in the top eight. A lack of experience worsened by the departure of Kondwani Lufeyo and a few others means this is work in progress. For all their exciting talent such as Yamikani Chester and Maxwell Mwanyongo, Tigers badly lack leaders in defence, midfield and striking force. It remains to be see what difference would the likes of Bashir Maunde bring.
Moyale Barracks, Mafco, KB
Under Temwa Msuku, the Kaning’ina Lions can roar their way to a cup or two, but certainly not the league. A lack of motivation for the players is the biggest setback. Gastin Simkonda and the Fukizi brothers, Crispin and Clifford, remain their biggest assets. Mafco as well as Kamuzu Barracks share similar problems faced by Army teams.
Blue Eagles, Epac
They will find it hard to sustain their cup winning exploits as the stakes are high this season. Charles Ngosi is carrying a long term injury, Peter Mgangira is gradually heading towards retirement and the sale of leading striker Innocent Bokosi to Mozambique might prove to be a huge mistake. The cops, just like Epac, are barely guaranteed an escape from the drop.
It is not about a lack of talent, but rookies Mzuzu United, Evirom FC and Mponela United have a mountain to climb. Evirom have switched non-stop from the Premier Division to the Super League. Player burn out could affect them. Mzuzu United (formerly Super Eagles) and Mponela cannot survive without steady sponsorship. In the last three or more seasons, no Simama Premier Division champion has survived beyond a debut Super League season.
Good luck to the rookies though. Prove the Doubting Thomasses wrong.