The news of the withdrawal of the Carlsberg Cup by sponsors Castel Malawi should probably disappoint the country’s arch rivals, Mighty Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets the most, as they jointly enjoy being the only clubs to have won most titles in the 11 seasons it has been played at three wins each.
Launched in 2000 as Carlsberg Malawi Brewery, the first champions were Wanderers and went on to claim it again in 2015 and 2016 while Bullets enjoyed its supremacy in 2002, 2014 and 2017.
If it had been played this season, these two age-old rivals mostly likely could have been eyeing to be ahead of one another — and as always.
In the inaugural final match in 2000, the Nomads, then known as Telecom Wanderers won 2-1 against their rivals then known as Total Big Bullets with goals from beat Bob Mpinganjira and late Hendrix Banda and the consolation from Chikondi Banda.
Moyale and the defunct Escom United became the surprise teams of the 2001 when when they reached the final against all odds in which the Mzuzu-based soldiers carried the day 1-0 courtesy of goal from then top sniper Prichard Mwanza.
Wanderers and Bullets once more met in the final of 2002 in which The People’s team were champions courtesy of lone goal from one of the country’s finest finishers, McDonald Yobe.
But in 2003, there was a sudden twist of events, not because the two arch rivals, Wanderers and Bullets, had once more reached the final, but it went on to end in controversy after Wanderers’ Muzipasi Mwangonde had equalised in extra time when they were at 2-2.
The referee and his assistant had ruled that the ball, floated into the box by Joseph Kamwendo has first crossed the byeline before curving back into the field of play in mid flight where it found Mwangonde who fired it into the net.
That decision led to protests from the Wanderers fans in the terraces and in the commotion that ensued, violence erupted prompting the match to be abandoned.
Not happy with the turn of events, Carlsberg Malawi Brewery decided to withdraw the sponsorship, citing that violence has no place in football, let alone any sport.
The two goals of that day were each scored by the two teams’ then men of the moment, Bullets’ James Chilaponda and Wanderers’ Joseph Kamwendo. While Chilapondwa quit playing and concentrating on the technical part of it, Kamwendo is still playing.
After a change of heart, when sanity finally prevailed when current Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu took over leadership, Carlsberg decided to come back into football after concentrating in golf during the absence.
And it followed with upsets for the 2012 inaugural final after the eight-year absence when Blue Eagles beat Escom United 1-0 through Ben Hojani for the hosts to make Lilongwe happy that the Capital City had finally their share of this lucrative tournament.
In 2013, it was a final fight between two warring entities, Moyale and Kamuzu Barracks and the title went to the Lilongwe-based soldiers after winning 1-0 through Harvey Mkacha.
In expressing his sadness over this withdrawal, Nyamilandu said in a statement that the Carlsberg Cup was one of the biggest platforms for football development as it offered a rare platform that gave the lower league sides a chance to compete pound by pound with the big boys from the elite league.
“A number of rockies from lower league made their breakthrough via the Carlsberg Cup and are today big-name players in top teams. I am short of words to explain how saddened we are with this development,” Nyamilandu says.
And this is true because in 2014, out of the blue came a very big upset when less-fancied Zomba United reached the final and though they lost 0-1 to Big Bullets through goals from Henry Kabichi and Victor Limbani, they had etched their mark on the Carlsberg Cup’s annals of history.
Then in 2015, the usual suspects — the country’s arch rivals — dominated the scene with Wanderers carrying the day in the final through goals from Victor Nyirenda and Kondwani Kumwenda while Bullets’ Jaffali Chande scored the consolation.
This is the period that Chande’s name became a household name and he went on to become centre of attraction when he immediately switched his allegiance from Bullets to Wanderers.
For the 2016 edition, Silver Strikers decided to represent Lilongwe well by reaching the final in which the two drew 1-1 in regulation time through goals from Harry Nyirenda for Wanderers and Victor Limbani for Silver but the Nomads kept firm by retaining the title through winning 5-4 on the post-match penalties
Again the two rivals faced each other for the 2017 edition in which Bullets scored through Muhammad Sulumba and Nelson Kangunje while Wanderers relied on Jaffali Chande and Isaac Kaliyati but The People’s Team carried the day winning 5-3 on penalties.
The People’s Team stumbled along the road to the 2018 final that their arch rivals dated new kid on the block, Masters Security. The veterans were forced to a 1-1 draw after regulation time through their Precious Sambani while Masters hit through Sam Phiri.
But the Nomads kept their cool to win the post-match penalties 5-4, not knowing they are the last champions — at least for the moment — because Nyamilandu has hinted that Castel Malawi, which is going through financial problems that have affected most of its operations, has given them hope of coming back once its operations stabilize.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :