All is well that ends well. And that is exactly how the 2014 football season can be summarized on club and national team fronts in Malawi. There were ups and downs during the campaign, but come December 6 2014 when the season wound up, the good prevailed.
Big Bullets winning the TNM Super League title for the first time since 2005, and with it, announcing a return to Caf Champions League football for 2005, represents good news for Malawi football.
And while the Bullets must have celebrated the free-fall from grace of Blantyre rivals, Mighty Wanderers who finished the season empty-handed (save for Blantyre Mayors Charity Shield), for neutrals Wanderers, whose highest K8.3 million spending on players proved futile, had something to smile about.
After much speculation on the social media, Japanese second hand car dealers Be Forward took over Wanderers with an unprecedented K70 million sponsorship that many believe will inject more life into the sleeping giant.
If it were not for the sponsorship, this should have been the worst season for Wanderers in the Super League.
There were also bad news for rookies Chikwawa United and Karonga United who united for bad reasons when being relegated back to the second tier Premier Division.
Perhaps the biggest shock was on the relegation of one of the most exciting teams Blantyre United, who after losing coach Elia Kananji and key players to the Bullets in the season, failed to survive in the top flight league.Airborne Rangers were the only new comers to survive the drop.
However, the season was for once orderly with the Super League of Malawi able to stick to its April to December 6 calendar and avoiding clashes with mother body, the Football Association of Malawi which manages the senior national football team, the Flames.
The season also witnessed least two cases of violence, but player transfer wrangles affected the careers of Tsanzo Dalio and Abraham Kamwendo whose transfers from Epac and Blantyre United to Wanderers proved futile and they were forced back. Complaints over poor officiation were few and the quality of play on the pitch stabilized for the better.
On the pitch, veteran winger Fischer Kondowe proved that age is nothing but a number when being voted player of the year following his exploits with the Bullets.
It was a close call between Kondowe and Moyale Barracks’ Gastin Simkonda who got a consolation for scooping the Golden Boot Award after matching last season’s tally of 17 goals set by Ishmael Thindwa then while at Epac.
Moyale goalkeeper McDonald Harawa and his Wanderers’ counterpart Richard Chipuwa also impressed for club and country as they swapped the first choice national team jersey.
For the Flames, it was yet another version of so-near, yet- so-far as they missed out on the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualification on the last day of the qualifiers after being held 0-0 in Ethiopia when needing maximum points while hoping for group B leaders Algeria to win away in Mali.
Nothing of that sort happened as Mali won 2-0 to leave the Flames behind as they missed the Afcon ticket for the third consecutive edition since gracing the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola.
Let us face it, the Flames were paper-thin on the playing personnel as coach Young Chimodzi, recalled two years after being removed alongside his former mentor Kinnah Phiri, tinkered on starting XI while trying to establish the right balance and combinations.
“It was difficult rebuilding while at the same time competing for an Afcon place,” Chimodzi told supersport.com.
If scoring was a challenge, the defending was disastrous in the 15 games including international friendly matches broken down to four wins, four draws and seven defeats.
The coaches’ performance rating hovers way below average at 27 percent during their nine-month tenure since being recalled as permanent successors for their former boss Kinnah Phiri, whose departure was followed by Eddingtone Ng’onamo and Tom Saintfiet’s futile stints.
Going into minute details, Malawi, in the 15 games leaked in 20 goals. The context of Chimodzi’s record is that he did relatively better in 10 competitive matches of four wins, one draw and five defeats representing a 40 percent rating.
And the six points from a possible 18 the Flames collected in the Afcon race beats the four-point that earned the 2010 Afcon qualification.
Based on the way the Flames finished the Afcon campaign, by plugging the holes to register two consecutive clean sheets, gives a flicker of hope that if this team sticks together for one more year, it could gel.
For the first time, the defensive set up was maintained in two consecutive games against Mali and Ethiopia, but the striking force has changed in every game.
While Kinnah had a backbone, you can give the benefit of doubt to the Chimodzi’s rebuilding jazz as has tried 40 players and different combinations with only Chimango Kayira featuring in every match.
Succumbing to pressure, Chimodzi recalled veterans Fischer Kondowe, Esau Kanyenda and young striker Zico Mkanda.
Wanderers were not the only side that received massive cash injection as there was also K250 million financial support towards the national team.
The Flames are in relative safe hands of Carlsberg Malawi Limited sponsorship for three years. The money guarantees the team some financial backing. This should be a relief as twice during the 2015 Afcon race, the team nearly withdrew due to lack of money.
The impact of the sponsorship was not felt in the initial year, as per agreement, CarlsbergFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :