On a day when I chose poetry over football, it was quite refreshing to note that the Blantyre derby is well and truly back on course towards becoming the electrifying fixture it once was. On Sunday, Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers proved yet again that they will, for the foreseeable future, remain the heart and soul of Malawian football regardless of what they achieve on the field of play.
I happened to drive around town from around lunch hour and you could see, feel and touch the fever generated by this fixture. Minibuses, cars, motorcycles and even bicycles were flying blue-white or red-white flags and scarves while other people were seen walking to Kamuzu Stadium draped in the colours of the two football institutions. Vuvuzelas were making their usual noise along the way.
Even where I spent my afternoon, there was divided attention as people were appreciating prose while following the action at the stadium via the radio commentaries. Indeed, colours of the two clubs were on display as fans shared a bit of banter. All talk of the Blantyre derby being on the steady way towards extinction was proved the hot air I hoped it would be.
From interviews and media reports, I gather that except for the opening exchanges, Bullets controlled the proceedings in the first half when they deservedly had their noses in front. But as coach Eddington Ngâ€™onamo conceded later, the Peopleâ€™s Team lost concentration in the second half as they took their supremacy for granted, allowing the Nomads to seize the initiative and turn the tables.
Therein lies the lesson for all of us. Never lose focus and concentration. Otherwise, you end up writing â€˜Siberiaâ€™ instead of â€˜Iberiaâ€™ and â€˜ditchedâ€™ instead of â€˜dishedâ€™ as I did in my last entry. Many thanks are due to Mike Somba for pointing out these typing errors emanating from a lapse of concentration and apologies for everyone who had to put up with those embarrassing gaffes.
Maybe I was apprehensive given the European Championship final that was only a day away. Italy had just given one of their finest displays in booking a final date with Spain who I was rooting for but could not see repeating the feat. No team had ever retained this title and even though still exciting to watch, La Roja had not been at their vintage best en route to their fate with destiny.
Little did I know that the Spaniards would save their best for last. Playing their unique 4-6-0 formationâ€”in reality a fluid 4-3-3 formation without a recognised strikerâ€”Vicente del Bosqueâ€™s men turned on the style when it mattered most to reduce Cesare Prandelliâ€™s troops to mere spectators. Perhaps that is a tad rude because they were actually running around, chasing floodlight shadows, so to say.
Fate might have played a part in the injury to Thiago Motta which saw the Italians have only 10 players in the last quarter of the game, but even at that point there was no genuine hope that Gil Azzurri had what it takes to reverse the 2-0 first-half deficit and the way they capitulated in the last minutes of the game was so embarrassing that Spain goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas had to plead with the referee to stop the match prematurely.
And so we have it. Spain have won a third major tournament in four years. With the bulk of the team still young enough to even improve further, there is a real feeling that this side can dominate world football for a while longer. It is quite ominous.