When Nyasa Big Bullets coach Kalisto Pasuwa kept on rotating players in almost each and every game in the just ended season, many thought he had no idea of what he was doing but that was the only way to survive the long football season which was coupled with injuries plus Covid-19 positive cases to the majority of his players.
Just four games into the delayed season, 12 of his players tested positive to the Covid-19 before losing Precious Sambani, Chimango Kayira, Righteous Banda, Pilirani Zonda, Ernest Kakhobwe, Aziz Mwakifuna, John Lanjesi and Rabson Chiyenda to injuries.
To make matters worse, Pasuwa’s team lost Peter Banda to Moldovan side Sherrif Teraspol FC and Mike Mkwate to Polokwane City FC.
Fast forward to 18th December, 2021, Pasuwa has earned the right to repeat a line made famous by Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith played by George Peppard in the 1980’s series ‘The A-Team’ “I love it when a plan comes together.”
Not only did Pasuwa vow to defend the title, but he went back to the proverbial drawing board, plotted, got his troops ready and led them to a very successful 2020/21 campaign.
“If I can remind you, I have been having problems with reporters and supporters who were asking me as to why I kept on rotating players. When I was doing my plans as a coach, I plan for the whole season. I don’t plan for one game. Had it been that I was using one team, with so many injuries that I was having, I wouldn’t have survived.
“I remember, there was a period when 12 of my players were Covid-19 positive. We managed to play with the players that were available at that time and we were winning so it was a plan of having each and every player to get ready to play if given a chance and they did well throughout the season,” he told reporters soon after the victory.
Not that there were no bumps along the way, just as when supporters bayed for his blood when Bullets exited the inaugural FDH Cup before dropping five points away to Moyale Barracks and Mzuzu Warriors, a week that saw Silver Strikers FC coming back into the title contention.
Starting their Super League title defence with a goalless draw at home to Blue Eagles, Bullets dropped more points a week later when they lost 1-0 to Karonga United.
To others, this signaled danger to the People’s Team as their rivals kept on collecting points to send a statement of intent in the title race.
But Pasuwa and his players remained focused on the prize at the end of the journey, and as it is common in life, all shared in the unbridled joy that ensued after Bullets pipped Silver Strikers to the Super League title before completing a double on Saturday to win their first ever Airtel Top 8 Knockout Cup.
On their way to the Super League title, Bullets left their closest contender Silver the day they climbed top of the standings.
Despite losing to Moyale Barracks, Mighty Wanderers and dropping points in the second round, fellow title contenders failed to remove them from the top position until the end of the race when they hammered Kamuzu Barracks to win the league as Silver and Wanderers lost to Moyale and Blue Eagles respectively.
After wrapping up the league, Pasuwa and his charges switched focus to the Airtel Top 8 Cup as they wanted to end their Cup drought since 2017.
They started the campaign with a 3-1 victory over Mafco FC before completing the double in Dwangwa with a 2-1 victory to progress to the semifinals with a 5-2 goal aggregate.
In the semis, the People’s Team thumped their cross-town rivals Wanderers 4-1 to reach the finals of the Cup for the second time in four years.
And in the final, Bullets got the better of Silver Strikers with a 5-3 shoot-out victory to win the Cup after coming closer in 2018 when they lost to Blue Eagles in the controversial way.
There are some lessons for giants like Wanderers, Silver and Civil Service United FC as well as the entire football fraternity to be learnt from how Bullets went about their business.
The first and most important lesson, is that you should never leave your fate in other people’s (or in this case, clubs) hands. You learn to take your fate into your own hands. That’s a major recipe for success.
Another lesson is that consistency is, just like perseverance, a very important ingredient.
The Central Bankers are a sorry sight this season, giving up the title when they had a healthy lead heading into the second round of the league.
For Wanderers, playing two seasons without winning any silverware is a setback to all Nomads family.
Wanderers have to put their house in order and come back stronger next season otherwise, their rivals will continue to dominate and as Wanderers, they will continue to wander in the wilderness.
Pasuwa’s men challenge now would be to perform well in the CAF Champions League after failing to pass through the preliminary stages.
Congratulations to Pasuwa and his charges for winning a double for the first time in seven years.
The last time Bullets achieved this was in 2014 when they won the Super League and the then Carlsberg Cup. What a season it was for the Zimbabwean.