Kamuzu Stadium will once again command the attention of the nation, as it plays host to another edition of Malawi’s biggest rivalry, the Blantyre derby between defending TNM Super League champions Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers on Saturday afternoon to mark the start of the 2022 season.
This will be the first time in 17 years for the two heavyweights to lock horns on the opening day of Super League season after they opened the 2004/5 campaign in which Bullets won 3-0.
It has been quite the fall from grace from once dominant Wanderers who last won the trophy in 2018.
Their opponents have had a very successful 2020/21 season in which they won the Super League and Airtel Top 8 Cup and a fortnight ago, they won the NBS Bank Charity Shield for the fifth time in a row.
Bullets come into this particular fixture as favorites having hammered their rivals 4-1 in the Airtel Top 8 Cup in December last year.
However, Bullets’ only defeat at home in the league in the previous season was inflicted by Wanderers who ended their eight-year unbeaten home run after registering a 1-0 victory over Malawi’s most decorated football club.
Followers of this famous derby know very well that form often has no bearing on the outcome of this fixture and The People’s Team know not to underestimate their bitter rivals.
It will be coach Kalisto Pasuwa’s first eleven without the famous names which he released before the start of the new campaign and he told his supporters not to expect too much from his youthful team.
“Yes, we are defending champions and we have revamped the team which thought was old and you know what it is when you start to rebuild. You can’t expect results now and then because it’s a process but we will try our level best and hope may be with time, we will get there,” he told reporters during pre-match press conference.
On the other hand, this match presents the visitors an opportunity to avenge that 4-1 defeat suffered in the knockout cup.
Despite ending Bullets’ unbeaten run in the league, Wanderers have been playing second fiddle to their rivals in both the field of play as well as winning trophies.
In the past nine seasons, The People’s Team have had eight trophies and five successful Charity Shields cups at the expense of their rivals who have not put their hands on any trophy since 2018.
It will also be an interesting match which will see Chiukepo Msowoya, who was released by Bullets, and Miracle Gabeya, who turned down a new contract offer, facing their former club.
As explained by assistant coach Joseph Kamwendo, playing Bullets on the first match of the season is what his side has been striving for to avenge the humiliating 4-1 defeat.
“This is what we have been waiting for. We wanted Bullets in order to avenge that defeat and almost each and everyone of us is very excited with this fixture. We know it won’t be an easy one but we will do whatever it takes to collect maximum points over them,” he told the local media.
The quality of this derby may wax and wane, but it remains the biggest game in Malawi where there remains no need for opposition fans to be separated.
On the field, the two teams will battle it out for victory and bragging rights. But it’s more than that. It’s about the stands awash with color. It’s about the noise and the carnival and the riot of costumes. It’s about the dislike between the teams and the lack of aggression and creativity of the fans.
It’s the big Blantyre derby on the opening season of the 2022 campaign.