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Drunk with surprises

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The 2018 edition of the Carlsberg Cup will go down in the history of Malawi football as one full of surprises that will leave a hangover which will endure for the memorable future.

The cup has a history of surprises that dates back to 2014 when, against the odds, defunct Southern Region Football Association (SRFA) League Premier Division side Zomba United went all the way up to the final at the expense of established TNM Super League giants who fell by the wayside.

It was only Nyasa Big Bullets who managed to stop the lower division side in the final, courtesy of a 2-0 win.

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Another lower division team from the Southern Region, Mangochi Police, came onto the stage to shock the country’s football fraternity with a mazy run that saw them make it to the semifinals in the 2016 season.

They held their own in the last four at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre where they lined up against Be Forward Wanderers.

Wanderers sweated to go past the policemen with a 1-0 win which came in a match full of nasty incidents that should not be part of the game.

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The competition continued with its history of surprises and this time, it was the turn of Hangover United, yet another team from the South, to announce its arrival on the scene.

This is a team that has only been around for less than four years but is one of the candidates for promotion to the TNM Super League from the SRFA Premier Division.

The team pushed aside seasoned campaigners such as Chitipa United, Moyale Barracks and Blue Eagles on its way to the semifinals.

Hangover are the only team that made it to the last four in regulation time, with a 1-0 win over Blue Eagles, while Bullets, Wanderers and Masters Security depended on post-match penalties to go through.

The Blantyre-based side also recorded the biggest win, 4-0 against Polytechnic, in the regional stage of the competition.

Some 22 teams competed in the cup’s regional phase in the South with 24 goals being scored in 16 matches.

MDF Marine’s Yotamu

Maunde won the Golden Boot Award with five goals. The region had four players scoring hat-tricks.

Eight teams qualified for the national phase from the South but Hangover, despite playing in a national cup for the first time in their history, were the only side that went far.

The Central Region had 20 teams competing in the preliminary round with 15 matches that produced 43 goals. Airborne Rangers registered the biggest win as they thumped Ocasor 5-0.

Luka Kolodio of Ngolowindo and Airborne’s Kephas Zimba shared the top goalscorer’s accolade with four goals apiece.

Zimba was the only player who managed a hat-trick in the region which produced five teams for the national phase.

Some 14 teams from the Northern Region played ten matches which produced 23 goals. Luwinga registered the biggest win-a 3-0 clobbering of Manyamula.

Mchengautuba’s Steve Madimba proved to be the region’s sharpest marksman with his three goals. But while preliminary matches in the South and Centre had hat-tricks, the North had none.

Three teams represented the region in the national phase but just like their Central Region counterparts, none won a match at that stage as they encountered stiff competition from Super League giants.

After the conclusion of the regional Carlsberg parties, it was time for the drinking to enter the national phase which had all the 16 Super League teams and 16 regional sides.

The 32 teams played on a knockout basis with the top eight teams on the 2017 Super League table avoiding each other during the draw.

The other eight top flight league campaigners were placed in the other pot which had the lower league teams.

This resulted into 31 matches being played and 89 goals finding their way into the records. Bullets’ Mike Mkwate made it as the top scorer with five goals.

Mkwate joined Silver Strikers’ Khuda Muyaba, Madimba of Mchengautuba and Hangover striker Emmanuel Lino in clinching hat-tricks.

By the way, Mkwate is a midfielder and not a striker! This should leave our strikers with a hangover. Did they knock off at a very crucial time for a midfielder to clinch the Golden Boot from right under their noses?

Bullets recorded the biggest win in the competition as they trounced Mitundu 8-0 in the round of 32.

And in yet another surprise, lower league players Lino and Madimba are the competition’s joint top goalscorers with seven goals apiece. Could it not have been Super League stars winning this accolade?

And finally, Wanderers and Masters met in the final at Kamuzu Stadium with the latter lifting the cup courtesy of a 5-4 win on post-match penalties after a 1-1 stalemate in regulation time.

Masters left tongues wagging after flying from Lilongwe to Blantyre, a rare act amongst Malawian teams that depend on road transport to travel to match venues.

After the final, which was played some eight days ago, Wanderers had a chance to avenge defeat and they did it in a surprising manner as they netted 4 goals without reply last Tuesday at the same venue in the Fisd Challenge Cup. What had changed for Masters to concede four goals against a team they had beaten just three days before?

The last occurrence that left both Wanderers and Masters surprised was the gate revenue during the final which amounted to about K19 million.

This prompted the Nomads General Secretary Mike Butao to write a strong protest letter to Football Association of Malawi (Fam).

Butao argued that the revenue did not match with the number of spectators who patronised the match.

“All Wanderers stands were packed to the brim. One of the other two stands was also fully

packed with pockets of empty space seen in the final stand. At a minimum of K2,000 per ticket it is unacceptable to make less than K20m from such capacity. We also wish to put it on record that clubs gained nothing from using NITEL as gate and ticket managers.

“NITEL printed the tickets, handled the cash, manned the gates to check the tickets and did the reconciliation. This is disturbing. Where are the checks and balances? Two people were caught selling tickets on the cheap and they confessed they had got the tickets from the people manning the gates,” Butao wrote.

Masters officials also expressed dissatisfaction with the gate proceeds but fell short of taking any action as they did not expect any positive response from Fam.

And indeed, Fam is yet to respond up to this day. Quite surprising. Isn’t it?

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