Nyasa Big Bullets’ fairy-tale at Cecafa Kagame Interclub Cup on Saturday ended in tears after going down 1-0 to Ugandan champions Express FC in a nervy final at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
There is a saying in football that number two is not the best and that nobody remembers who comes second. But this is not the case with Bullets at the regional tournament.
Although the loss to Express left a bitter taste in the mouth, Bullets, who were participating as guests, will be remembered for their impressive showing.
The People’s Team showed character from the group stage match when they held Tanzania giants Young Africans and Express FC before beating Altabara to qualify for the semi-final as Group A runners up.
A 4-2 post match penalties victory over hosts Azam FC in a nerve-wracking semi-final after a two-all stalemate in regulations time, set up a final against the Ugandan champions.
And that’s exactly how it played out in the final witnessed by Confederation of African Football president Patrice Motsepe, Minister of Sports Ulemu Msungama and Malawi National Council of Sports board chairperson Sunduzwayo Madise.
Just as it was in the group stage, Express FC took the lead again, this time in the 22nd minute. Right back Gomezgani Chirwa lost the ball on the right wing and Express FC, in a counter attack, let loose Erick Kambale who whipped it inside for Martin Kizza to slot home.
Bullets tried to stage a comeback, but it was all in vain as Express seemed to have read the People’s Team tactics from the earlier encounter.
Playing without veteran striker Chiukepo Msowoya, who missed the final to attend his mother’s funeral, Bullets struggled upfront against the bulky Ugandans defenders. No wonder Bullets’ only clear chance in the first half was when Bright Munthali shot wide.
The Nigerian Babatunde Adepoju also saw his goal disallowed for infringement just before the end of the first half.
A reconstitution of the attack which saw striker Hassan Kajoke coming in for winger McFarlen Mgwila did not help much.
Bullets coach Peter Mponda, not amused with Kajoke’s performance, substituted him for attacking midfielder Paul Kansungwi in the last 10 minutes of the match.
In a post-match interview, monitored on Azam Television, Mponda conceded defeat, saying they were outplayed. Bullets Yamikani Fodya was voted Best Player of the Tournament while Chimwemwe Idana won Fairplay Award.
The People’s Team also received $20 000 (about K17 million) for being runners-up.