By Williams Gondwa:
Last season’s winners of various national football competitions are set to meet this afternoon in the Ecobank Charity Shield at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The competition marks the official kick-off of the 2019 season which will run up to December.
TNM Super League champions Nyasa Big Bullets, Airtel Top 8 Cup winners Blue Eagles, Fisd Challenge Cup kings Be Forward Wanderers and Carlsberg Cup holders Masters Security will all be at the soccer mecca as they attempt to win the season’s first piece of silverware.
Wanderers and Masters will be the first to play before Bullets lock horns with Blue Eagles in the contest which ends tomorrow.
The Nomads and Masters met in last year’s Carlsberg Cup final while the People’s Team and the policemen clashed in the 2018 Airtel Top 8 Cup.
In the run-up to the tournament, Ecobank announced a K12 million purse for the event which will be hosted by Blantyre for the first time since 2016.
Through the competition, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) has joined the fight against attacks on people with albinism in the country.
Interestingly, the two clashes have drawn teams who have scores to settle against each other.
For instance, Wanderers lost in the Carlsberg Cup final to Masters 5-4 on post-match penalties whereas Eagles stopped Bullets in the Airtel Top 8 final courtesy of a 1-0 win.
So while the ultimate goal of the contest is charitable in nature, the four teams are certainly not in the mood to donate goals.
The games give the four gladiators the chance to underline their ambition, intent and hunger for the new season.
Bullets have the bragging rights of the tournament having dominated it since inception in 2016.
The Super League champions triumphed in last year’s edition when they defeated Silver Strikers 3-0 in the final, a day after beating Kamuzu Barracks (KB) 2-1 courtesy of Bright Munthali and Chiukepo Msowoya’s goals.
Against the Central Bankers, it was Msowoya who struck a brace with Precious Phiri scoring the other goal.
In 2017, Bullets defeated KB 3-1 to lift the shield with Muhammad Sulumba scoring a brace.
The People’s Team also won the 2016 showpiece after beating bitter rivals Wanderers 2-0, following strikes by Sulumba and Msowoya.
This was before the shield’s format was changed to accommodate four teams.
Bullets hit man Chiukepo Msowoya remains the leading goal-scorer in the competition having registered four goals.
Msowoya, who missed the 2017 edition after signing a six-month deal with the South African Premier Soccer League side Golden Arrows, said he wants to continue scoring.
“It is important to help your club by scoring goals and win trophies. I know that competition will be tough this time as all teams are fully prepared but I will work hard to remain the top goal scorer,” Chiukepo said.
Eagles captain, Micium Mhone, said much as facing Bullets at their backyard will not be an easy task, winning the shield will give them motivation to do well in the new season.
Mhone said Eagles are aware that Bullets will enter the field of play to avenge their Top 8 final loss.
“We know Bullets will come hard on us after we beat them in that final. But we are ready for them. We are just asking for good officiation. Bullets are a beatable side and we can repeat what we did to them in that final,” Mhone said.
Wanderers Coach, Bob Mpinganjira, said they are not underrating Masters.
“Masters are an unpredictable side. They beat us in the cup final last year and we learnt our lessons. We have trained hard so that we win this cup for the first time,” Mpinganjira said.
Masters Coach, Abbas Makawa, said they will use the event to make a final assessment of the squad ahead of the new season.
Makawa said even though the result of this weekend’s games may not be as important to his team, his charges will fight to prove that they deserve places in the starting line-up.
“The tournament is good for our preparations ahead of the new season. We are now a respected club after winning the Carlsberg Cup and finishing fourth in the TNM Super League. We know it will be tough but we expect to come out unscathed,” he said.
Proceeds of the event will go towards the fight against attacks on people with albinism.
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