All roads for Malawi football lead to Civo Stadium for FISD Challenge Cup semis

The journey for the ultimate MK12 million prize money for the winners of Malawi’s 2017 FISD Challenge Cup is soon coming to an end with two mouth-watering semi-finals scheduled for Saturday and Sunday and both to be played at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe.

Models bring the Fisd Challenge Cup-Photo by Mphatso Nkhoma, Nyasa Times

Sponsored by Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development (FISD) on a five-year deal and organised by Football Association of Malawi (FAM), the Saturday semi-final is between Central Region sides Kamuzu Barracks and Masters Security Services FC while Northern Region giants Moyale Barracks are up against Southern Region and the country’s giants Nyasa Big Bullets on the second semis on Sunday.

And for qualifying for the semis, each of the four teams have been given MK1 million starter pack as well two sets of uniforms, courtesy of the MK56 million tournament that started on September 30 with regional qualifiers.

None from the regional champions has made it far but of note is the achievement of debutantes in the TNM Super League, Masters Security Services FC, who have defied all odds to reach this far while 12 from the elite league, including defending champions Mighty Be Forward Wanderers fell along the way.

“The stakes for the games are very high and we encourage football fans to come in large numbers to witness these very tense and thrilling fixtures,” said Fam’s Commercial & Marketing Director Limbani Matola.

He said tickets will be sold at the gates and the charges are MK1,000 for Open Stands, MK2,000 for Covered Stands and MK5,000 for the VIP stand for Saturday’s game between Kamuzu Barracks and Masters Security Services FC while that between Moyale Barracks and the top billing giants Nyasa Big Bullets shall be at MK1,000 for Open Stands, MK3,000 for Covered Stands and MK7,000 for the VIP stand.

A total of 57 teams comprising the 16 Super League, 12 Premier Division teams (top four teams in the three regional leagues) and 29 district teams who won the 2017 Presidential Cup district championship participated in this tournament.

The districts teams play in a regional championship in their respective regions to come up with five teams — two each from the South and Centre and one from the North — that will qualify for the national phase.

The regional league teams play in a regional championship in their respective regions to come up with three teams while the 16 TNM Super League teams were drawn against each other.

The tournament started in 2016 and the inaugural champions were Mighty Wanderers, who beat Silver Strikers in the final. Ironically, Silver Strikers became the first champions of the newly launched Airtel Top 8 Cup after beating Wanderers in the final this year.

The FISD Challenge replaced the Standard Bank Knock-Out Cup early last year after the Bank pulled out their sponsorship of the Knock-out Cup, that was competed for by just top eight TNM Super League teams.

FISD came into football when they sponsored Wizards, formerly known as Surestream.

Soon after suffering the setback at the sponsorship withdrawal by Standard Bank FISD came to the rescue of FAM with an initial sponsorship package of K40 million for 2016.

Standard Bank had been sponsoring the Knock-Out Cup since 2007. It was played at the end of the TNM Super League season in which the six top teams in the Super League qualified for the event and two were voted in by the bank’s clients.

The Knock-Out Cup started as Fam Cup in mid 2000 at a time when the corporate world decided to abandon football in Malawi following a surge in violence at venues.

Several companies, including Standard Bank, were part of the plan to resurrect football sponsorship through the Fam Cup until Standard Bank decided to go solo and renamed it the Knock-Out.

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