After a month of rest, severalTNM Super League teams will, in the next few weeks, return to training to start preparations for the 2019 soccer season. Malawi24’s Andrew Chilapondwa offers his insights on the forthcoming campaigns.
The just ended season was by far one of the toughest which saw some top teams would love it were just a dream have been relegated to the lower division despite accumulating more than 30 points while other top teams escaped relegation with just two points but ended up missing out of top eight, paving the way for rookies, notably Karonga United, Mzuni FC and TN Stars to take part in the 2019 top eight competition.
It was a season of drama, unpredictability and uncertainty from the word go. Even the mid-season hiatus came as a nightmare for other teams to relax or to review their first-round performance in order to plan for the second round.
The scenario gave a new dimension to the battle for supremacy and fight for relegation. Ironically, the top flight was as good as decided. By then, Nyasa Big Bullets were just a foot away from winning the league title and it wasn’t a surprise to see then winning the league with three games to spare, surpassing Be Forward Wanderers’s 2017 heroics of winning the league on the last day of the season.
The relegation of two army teams was the highlight of the just ended season. Nobody saw it coming. Red Lions and MAFCO joined Nchalo United as the three teams kissed goodbye to the top flight football.
But with the new season set to kickoff in April, how are the teams preparing for the battle and the subsequent TNM Super League seasons?
As usual, the top gurus have been the busiest in the ongoing local transfer market. So far, Bullets have roped in Precious Sambani, Ben Manyozo and Luke Chima while at the same time, extending contracts to some key players, with the management revealing that two more players are set to join the club before the window is shut.
The people’s team had some problems with their midfield whereas the left back position was as porous as sewage pipes draining in Mudi River, a gap Sambani magical feets are signed to address. Failure of which his multimillion signature will be in vain in the position for teams to pollute.
Their fiercest rivals, the Nomads of Lali Lubani have lost Sambani but they were quick to sign Babatunde Adeboye from Masters Security FC to cool the tempers of their Blue Nyerere(Blue Ants) supporters who were mad at the club’s failure to keep Sambani away from Bullets.
But it is not only Sambani that Nomads has lost. The pillars on which Wanderers rested for close to a decade, Joseph Kamwendo and Esau Kanyenda, leaving the club for greener pasture outside the country. May be they will return as they two players have always done, but who knows, the two players could be heading to what can only be described as the Guangzhou or any team in the Chinese Super League or the Major League Soccer (MLS) for retirement like players in the English Premier League and the other top four European Leagues (Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga, Serie A of Italy and the French Primeira Liga) do towards the end of their career.
The team’s maestro, Yamikani Chester, has also left for North Carolina FC on loan from MFKVyškov. The onus now is on the LaliLubanilads to extend contracts for several key players whose contracts are expiring before the start of the new season. Should they fail to do so, they are as good as Red Lions before the season starts: preparing for the Premier Division before the TNM 2019 Super League even starts.
As for Silver Strikers, they haven’t done much in the transfer window but they have succeeded in persuading their key players who were running out of contracts to extend their deals with the Area 47side.
With experience as the best teacher, it is possible that their lack of action builds on the fact that the Bankers of Bwandilohad a season to forget after spending millions on new players only to finish the season empty handed despite targeting a quadruple prior to the kicking off ofthe 2018 season.
The other 13 clubs should also try to strengthen their squads so that they are able to close the gap between themselves and the top three teams.
Civil Sporting Club, Moyale Barracks, Azam Tigers and Blue Eagles struggled a lot in the just ended season and if they fail to beef up their squads, it will be very difficult for them to mount any serious title challenge.
Once again, it will not be easy for Mlatho Mponela, Chitipa United and Nyasa Big Bullets Reserve/Ntopwa FC. These newly promoted teams need to be at their best so that they prove that they are not merely visitors into the TNM Super League.
Chitipa United are not new to the big league as they have been in and out. The Northern Region outfit were demoted back to the Simso League in 2017 but they bounced back after winning the Northern Region championship a year later.
Our advice to these rookies is to utilize the secret to surviving Super League relegation by collecting maximum points at home and strive for draws on the road and that’s exactly what Karonga United, Mzuni FC and TN Stars did in the just ended season.
All in all, we expect the battle of titans to be zeroed around Bullets, Wanderers and Silver Strikers unless a giant killer emerges to challenge the League’s three Goliaths.