The saying that it does not matter how you start a marathon but how you finish it rings true for 2016 TNM Super League newly-crowned kings, Kamuzu Barracks (KB).
It is common knowledge that KB are a Malawi Defence Force (MDF) team but, beyond that, just who are this bunch that has reshaped domestic football landscape?
Formed in 1978 as Chiwoko FC, the MDF headquarters-based side earned promotion to the top flight league from the Chipiku Premier Division in the 2011/2012 season.
In 2013, KB won the Carlsberg Cup under the current Coach, Billy Phambala, who was eventually sacked only to be recalled last season.
Generally, until the just-ended season, KB were just a mid-table team. Having started the 2016 season with three consecutive defeats in four league games, nobody gave the soldiers a chance.
KB started their campaign with 3-1 losses to Moyale Barracks and Mzuni, before being thrashed 4-1 by Epac. The soldiers anchored the table with a single point after conceding 12 goals and scoring five.
The results caused panic in KB’s dressing room. But Phambala was calm. He kept faith in the squad he inherited from the previous coach, Kenwood Nkhoma.
Perhaps, the defeats were a wake-up call to KB, who had the previous season finished on 10th place on the log table with 36 points.
All this makes the story of KB winning the league just amazing considering that before the season, the favourites’ tag was on Nyasa Big Bullets, Be Forward Wanderers, Silver Strikers and Blue Eagles.
They say a good coach must find a solution instead of blaming players. Phambala found a perfect balance. KB soon hit the ground running, mercilessly clobbering opponents, including Eagles 4-1.
“We showed that we were the best team for the better part of the season. Nobody gave us a chance to win the league but we showed our quality,” said Phambala, whose charges are the first MDF team to win the championship in the Super League’s 30-year history.
Then, as Chiwoko FC, KB was a combination of soldiers and civilian players from Kawale, Chilinde and Area 23. The team joined the Premier Division in 2008 before earning Super League promotion fours year later.
Former KB striker, Robert Kayira, said the team has one of the best squads in the country.
“The players are dedicated and hard workers. On top of that, the team always gets good support from management. I am not surprised that they won the league this season,” said Kayira, who played for the team between 2007 and 2013.
At the hub of KB’s success was attacker Harvey Nkacha, who scored vital goals.
“We were strong-willed throughout the season. We had some difficult moments after losing the Fisd Challenge Cup, but we recovered immediately,” Nkacha said.
Having a stubborn defence and striking force of Nkacha, Kelvin Hanganda and Manase Chiyesa left many teams chasing shadows.
The back-four of Pilirani Makupe, Pempho Kamsichiri, Vincent Mphepo and Mustafa Salimu was rock-solid.
Perhaps, KB have one of the best goalkeepers locally in Lemani Nthala, the younger brother to former Flames shot-stopper Simplex
Lemani was simply breathtaking between the sticks.
In general, the soldiers were consistent in the second round as they only lost to Premier Bet Wizards and Bullets in Blantyre. It remains to be seen if KB will turn winning the league into their habit.
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