Big Bullets, Mafco clash in Airtel Top 8 opener
The Airtel Top 8 Season 4 will explode into life this afternoon with the first leg quarterfinal clash between Nyasa Big Bullets and Mafco at Kamuzu Stadium.
The tournament returns after one year absence due to Covid-19 pandemic.
But the competition returns in style as life is slowly returning to normalcy in the country’s stadiums with 2000 fans allowed to watch matches.
Surely, the colourful sights and vibrant sounds from the fans are expected this afternoon.
Interestingly, Bullets and Mafco have never won the competition since it was introduced in 2017.
For Bullets, the last time they participated in this competition, they reached the final but lost 1-0 to the then winners Blue Eagles.
However, in 2019 Bullets were banned from taking part in the competition after being found guilty of the fracas that erupted after Stuart Mbunge’s goal from the penalty spot at Bingu National Stadium on July 1, 2018.
On the part of Mafco, they also missed the 2019 edition as they were relegated to the second-tier league.
This afternoon’s match presents both teams with a perfect opportunity to start the competition on a high.
Bullets and Mafco shared fortunes in the league this season, having drawn two games. The first round match between the two sides ended in a goal-less stalemate before a 1-1 draw in the second round.
Bullets coach Kalisto Pasuwa said the tournament came too early for his charges after a prolonged season.
“We need to be very offensive in order for us to get goals. Mafco are a very good team and they are also very good on set pieces but we have prepared well for them,” Pasuwa said.
In this tie, Bullets will be without Mischek Selemani, Ernest Petro, Luke Chima and Precious Sambani due to injuries. However, Hassan Kajoke, Babatunde Adepoju and Chimwemwe Idana are available for selection.
Mafco Assistant Coach Yohane Fulaye was optimistic of getting a positive result.
“Our plan is to make sure that we utilise our chances and finish them in the first leg,” Fulaye said.
Mafco have assembled a strong squad comprising Maurice Chiumia, Zikani Sichinga, Stain Malata and Peter Katsonga.
But the Salima-based soldiers will be without Captain Pau Ndhlovu, Kalisto Kalinda and Vitumbiko Phiri (other duties), Gift Soko (suspension) and Aubrey Chafewa due to injury.
In the second match of the competition, Mighty Wanderers will host Mzuzu based soldiers at Kamuzu Stadium tomorrow.
Holders Silver Strikers will start their title defence with a home match against Kasungu based TN Stars at Nankhaka Ground on November 13 before Civil Service United and Karonga United meet at Civo Stadium on November 14. The second leg matches will start on November 20 with Moyale hosting Wanderers at a venue yet to be identified whereas Mafco will meet Bullets at Chitowe Stadium the following day.
Karonga will host Civo on November 27 before TN face Silver at Kasungu Stadium on November 28. The semifinal matches will be played between December 11-12 whereas the final will be played on December 18.
Airtel Malawi Plc increased the sponsorship to K234 million from K198 million for the next three years.
The champion of this year’s tournament will walk away with K17million up from K15 million whereas the runner-up will get K5 million.