The razzmatazz that has gripped the top-flight TNM Super League in Malawi reaches fever pitch this afternoon as title-chasers and relegation battlers clash in swim-or-sink encounters.
It has been a while since such a wave of ecstasy gripped the domestic football scene and the contests this afternoon in Blantyre and Lilongwe, will drive the fans through a bewildering gut of emotions.
At Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre, reigning champions Nyasa Big Bullets who are chasing a third straight title, engage fallen capital city giants Civil Service (Civo) United.
Bullets have 54 points and trail leaders Kamuzu Barracks (KB) by a point with only two games to go. The Lilongwe-based Malawi Defence Force (MDF) side takes on Karonga United at Mzuzu Stadium in another potentially explosive battle.
With Silver Strikers waiting in the wings on third position with 53 points, KB and Bullets are painfully aware that any slip could prove fatal.
Statistically, the odds appear to swing in KB’s favour as victories in both their remaining games, will see them reach the promised land and win their maiden Super League title.
As for Bullets, they will be praying that the soldiers should draw or lose one of their remaining games for them to pull a fast one and retain the title they won last season without hardly breaking sweat.
But while KB appear on course to join the pantheon of local greats who have won the flagship league title before, the beauty of football is that it is such an unpredictable sport in which the mood can swing so quickly.
And the fascinating part is that both are facing teams that are in the murky waters of relegation and are desperate for survival.
Bullets team manager Rahim Ishmael said today’s encounter will be the toughest in their campaign.
“To us, I think the clear picture will be known today for two reasons.
“First, we are up against a team that will give out their all in the quest to survive because if we beat Civo then they will be down and out. So, definitely to us it is a cup final. But we thrive on such feisty encounters and we should come out triumphant.
“Secondly, we expect Karonga to give KB a good run because they too, are fighting relegation and in the event that KB win tomorrow [today], then the league will be theirs to lose,” said Ishmael.
Civo vice-general secretary Ronald Chiwaula said they have not yet flown the white flag.
“This is a must-win game for us. Even after a string of losses we remain positive that we will escape the chop, but we are also aware that for that to happen, we have to win against Bullets, otherwise we will have no chance.
“We have been working on the psychological aspect by trying to lift the players’ spirits,” he said.
Chiwaula also said they have maintained their reserve side coach Beggie Mwagomba as stand-in coach because he has an ounce of luck.
With three games to go, Civo are second from the bottom with 21 points.
KB team manager Francis Nthukwa-Shawa said they are expecting a tough battle against Karonga.
“We are calling the shots. If we win both games then that’s it, but we know that Karonga will come hard considering their situation.
“Having said that, the majority of the players that we will feature are those that did not play much because we also want to give them a chance,,” he said.
Karonga coach Oscar Kaunda said being their last game, his charges are ready to sweat blood to get the three points.n