- Bullets, Nomads clash again in Carlsberg final after 12 years
A dozen years have passed since local football powerhouses—Big Bullets and Mighty Be Forward Wanderers—clashed in a cup final. Hence, the hands of time will this afternoon turn back the age-old rivarly at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe that will forever define the Blantyre derby.
Incredibly, just like the latest edition of the Blantyre derby, on that bright afternoon 12 years ago, it was also in the Carlsberg Cup but the setting then, was the ceremonial home of local football—Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
With the two teams tied two-all in extra time, Wanderers’ Joseph Kamwendo who was then the most promising talent on the domestic scene, produced a moment of pure magic, so stunning, in its quality, it should have only been fit for the eyes of the angels in their flight.
He run to the ball and in a blur of action, there was a flick with his right foot to ghost past his marker and zoom into space, wide on the right channel. Then, he curled the ball into the goal area and like a sneaky thief, on pounced Muzipasi Mwangonde to provide the final flourish.
And as the blue side of town cheered what could have been their winning goal, one of the assistant referees, had his flag up and after consultations with referee Kalyoto Ngosi, the goal was disallowed on the basis that Kamwendo’s fabulous curler, went into touch before changing direction back into the field of play, pandemonium followed leading to the abandonment of the match.
Efforts by Football Association of Malawi (FAM) to have the match replayed, proved futile as the Nomads insisted they were robbed of victory and as the issue seemed to be headed towards a listless conclusion, Carlsberg dropped the bombshell and withdrew sponsorship only to bounce back three years ago.
During the 2003 abandoned finale, Kamwendo and James Chilapondwa scored two goals apiece for Wanderers and Bullets respectively.
While Kamwendo has moved on and is turning out for DR Congo giants TP Mazembe, Chilapondwa is still with Bullets and is one of the only two players still with Bullets who featured on that day and is relishing an opportunity of getting a run this afternoon. The other is veteran winger Fischer Kondowe.
“I still have fond memories of that match. It was probably one of the best encounters between the two teams and that I scored a brace, gives me extra motivation ahead of Saturday’s [today] final,” said Chilapondwa.
On his part, Kamwendo also said he will live to cherish that match.
“Apart from scoring two goals, I created the one that was disallowed which should have been our winning goal and I also had a grand game.
“You remember there was a home theatre system at stake for the man-of-the-match? By all means I would have got it, but sadly, it was never to be. I am a Nomad inside out and I hope the guys will rise to the occasion and prove that we were robbed of that game,” said Kamwendo from his base in Lubumbashi.
What makes this afternoon’s showdown more unique is that it will be the first time that the two teams will meet in a final match in Lilongwe which explains the hype that has gripped the capital city so much that even the Vice-President SaulosChilima, a staunch football fan, will be among the thousands that will troop to the stadium
Coach Elia Kananji, who won the tournament with Bullets last year before he crossed the floor to the blue side of town, will be hoping to write a fairy-tale by winning it with the Nomads.
“It will be something I will treasure in my career as a coach should I win the cup again with Wanderers, it will be something very special.
“It will be a tough game though, but we are set for the battle,” said Kananji.
Bullets coach Lloyd Nkhwazi said they will fight every inch of the way to retain the cup.
“We are aware that having beaten them in the first-round [of the TNM Sper League], they will come hard on us. Apart from that, they will be out to snatch the cup from us, but we are prepared,” said Nkhwazi.
At stake today is K9 million ($17 176) winner’s purse while the loser will get K5 million ($9 542) consolation.
But if recent statistics are anything to go by, then Bullets are favourites to win today’s encounter.
Apart from being the holders, Bullets have had an upper hand in their recent meetings. Last season, Bullets beat Wanderers thrice in competitive games (twice in the Super League and once in Carlsberg Cup semi-finals). The People’s Team also excelled when they met in the first round of the Super League (2-1) this season.
This will be their fourth meeting in the finals of the competition. They first met in 2000 and the Nomads won 2-1 courtesy of late Hendrix Banda’s extra time goal. Their second meeting was a year later and Bullets emerged 1-0 triumphant via McDonald Yobe’s strike. Their third meeting was in 2003 which was abandoned—it calls for a Carlsberg, doesn’t it?