This afternoon, Malawi will be brought to a standstill at 14:30 CAT as Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers collide in the Blantyre Derby, the biggest club match in Malawi which will be played at Bingu National Stadium in the semifinals of FHD Bank Cup second edition.
Despite being one of the most intense rivalries in Southern African football, the collision between the two old foes is a match not like any other, as supporters sit side by side and approach the contest with a sense of fraternity and fellowship.
It’s the kind of unity and camaraderie that would be completely alien to supporters of Simba SC and Young Africans, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, teams which contest fearsome derbies of their own.
Similarly, fancy suggesting to fans of Boca Juniors or River Plate, or Glasgow duo Rangers and Celtix or English’ Manchester City and Manchester United that they ought to sit next to one another when derby day rolls around.
Yet despite ‘some’ violent scenes and mutual animosity that all too regularly accompany these fixtures, the Blantyre derby bears none of this hostility among supporters, and the occasion in fact represents a day of great unity rather than division.
You will see different funny costumes, helmets with names of players, adorned with eye-catching decorations-that both fans will wear, there will be fun throughout and there won’t be any of the bitter footballing tribalism.
It’s a game that carries the hopes of a nation, players carrying responsibility of the masses. It’s two giants fighting for bragging rights, to determine who stands at the pinnacle of Blantyre clubs.
This match goes from townships to players and creates a fantastic atmosphere. In some families, there is a lot division on the day, people sleep without eating and go to bed very sad; that’s how deep and rife the rivalry is between the two teams.
The Blantyre derby is slowly turning into an event more than a match itself where people go there to enjoy the atmosphere or to network, they sit together and it’s not as tenacious as it used to be in the 90s.
But one thing for sure, this derby has never always been as ‘friendly’ as it is today.
During the early days of the derby, which began with the creation of Bullets in 1967, meeting between the two clubs were often marred by clashed between rival fans and battles between supporters before and after games were commonplace until the mid-20s.
Carlsberg Cup final in 2003 was abandoned when the match was at 2-2 after Nomads fans protested a decision by the referee who overturned Muzipase Mwangonde’s goal into a goalkick and this triggered into massive protests which saw sponsors pulling out.
And in 2020/21 season, the derby was abandoned with 14 minutes to play when Wanderers fans protested Gift Chicco’s decision to sent Ted Sumani to the terraces, a development which saw Bullets equalizing after they went behind through a Vincent Nyangulu first half strike.
The early tensions can be traced back directly to the formation of Bullets which was created from Wanderers.
The team included some other former Wanderers players who had become disgruntled with how they were treated at their former club.
To add salt to the wound, the ambitious Bullets swiftly generated a passionate and committed fanbase which to date, has seen the club becoming the most successful team in the land with 15 league titles plus plenty of other trophies.
To make matters worse, Bullets bought Wanderers legend, Yasin Osman, the first player in the history of Malawian football to be bought.
In the recent years, Wanderers fans protested against Bullets’ purchase of MacDonald Yobe who added fire the fuel by scoring against the Nomads in his first match.
And this afternoon, the two rivals meet for a place in Malawi’s prestigious competition where the winner will play Bullets Reserves on 8th October, 2022 at Kamuzu Stadium.
It’s a match which Wanderers would want to break their semifinal curse whenever they play their rivals since 2015.
The People’s Team has been dominating for quite some time and they are yet to lose to Wanderers at BNS in a competitive match since its establishment in 2016.
They eliminated Wanderers in the Airtel Top 8 Cup in 2018 and also beat them in the league in the same year.
Bullets also won the 2017 Carlsberg Cup final at the expense of their bitter rivals at the same venue.
But Wanderers are heading into this match with confidence following their victory over Silver Strikers in the league last week whilst Bullets are coming from back to back defeats to Simba SC in the CAF Champions League.
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