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Buzz over bonanza

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Malawians like trivia to a fault. Unsurprisingly, the whole of the week, fans were pre-occupied on the social media poking fun at some bus that broke down somewhere in Manjawira in Balaka District.

For Nyasa Big Bullets’ fans, it was time to divert attention and turn the heat on Be Forward Wanderers who won the bus after seeing off their sorry rivals 5-1 over two legs in the Bus Ipite Bonanza.

Wanderers defeated Bullets 2-1 in the second leg at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe on Monday to win the bus and leave Bullets’ family with egg all over face.

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Little did Wanderers, who won 3-0 in the first leg, foresee what was to befall them while in transit to Blantyre.

However, beyond all the jokes, the bonanza successfully exposed the domestic football giants’ inability to exploit their virgin commercial value untapped in their brands and millions of followers.

Bullets and Wanderers, whose combined army of followers should easily hit 10 million, competed for a 26 -seater reconditioned bus in the inaugural bonanza which Luso Television hosted.

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The bus is valued at K25 million. Good innovation by Luso TV. A bus is a luxury for domestic clubs. Bullets have/had a bus, but it broke down long time back.

A few years ago, the club’s vice-chairperson, Austin Kasito, using personal money, repaired the team’s bus in Lilongwe and drove it back to Blantyre.

It is the same story with Wanderers. Their bus, too, is off road, General Secretary, Mike Butao, confirmed last week.

It seems that the issue for the two giants is not about affording a bus, but keeping it on the road. They just cannot keep a bus on the road. It might be the same with this bus that broke down.

Nonetheless, Butao disagrees with this thinking, saying they are capable of keeping their team bus up and running.

But if Bullets and Wanderers have the means of transportation, was it worth for them to fight for the bus which was at stake in the bonanza?

For Bullets, was the bonanza not a distraction when they were supposed to be focusing on the then slim TNM Super League title dream?

“We are looking at the value of the bus and not the bus itself,” Butao insisted two weeks ago.

“Super League champions receive K15 million after playing for nine months. I believe it is worth competing in this bonanza as after two games, we will stand a chance to get a bus. In a cup, you play five games and get K10 million.”

Butao knows what he is talking about because his team clinched the Fisd Challenge Cup, whose prize money is K10 million, and Carlsberg Cup worth K12 million.

Earning more or less a similar amount from two games of the bonanza should indeed make business and logical sense. Of course, in Malawi football context.

Overall, a club can earn K45 million after winning all silverware locally. Clubs also make money from gate takings, but there is no income yet from television rights. Rich clubs make money from TV rights and not bonanzas or gate takings.

However, the fact that both teams unsuccessfully pushed for a loser’s consolation in the bonanza suggests that somewhere, playing in the bonanza was a gamble.

Each team also received K2 million appearance fee plus over K700,000 each for transport costs to Lilongwe.

Overall, playing in the mainstream cup games does not make economic sense, but the clubs can only go for what the local football environment offers.

“Bullets and Wanderers are big brands. Between ourselves we should be able to organise such a bonanza and get a bus each instead of a bus for one team only. This should be a wake-up call to us,” Butao observed.

For Bullets, their players risked their morale and legs in the critical stage of a league race. There was no doubt that a 3-0 first leg loss to Wanderers damaged Bullets’ morale.

Two weeks ago, Bullets’ vice- General Secretary, Bizy Kalozeni, suggested that it was too late for them to cry over split milk.

“We also realised that our previous officials already signed a contract to compete in the bonanza. The timing was not right but then it was too late for us to rescind the decision,” Kalozeni admitted.

The bonanza has exposed just how our local football clubs are not organised enough to make their own money. Football is a big business somewhere. Not in Malawi. For now, local clubs can survive on bonanzas. And of course, make fun of each other over trivia.

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