Who will follow Chitipa United?
For Chitipa United, the acrimonious end of their courtship with TNM Super League is no longer about how and why, but just a matter of when.
Chitipa are, at all cost, descending back to Simama Premier Division because they have 16 points from 27 games, hence their maximum tally is a meagre 25 points.
No team has, in Super League history, survived relegation with 25 points. The 30-point mark is the sure evacuation zone from relegation. And with the league bloated from 15 to 16 teams last season, 35 points is the safer mark.
Last season, Karonga United were relegated after collecting just 27 points. Civo United’s 25 points and eight points for Max Bullets proved too little to guarantee top-flight football.
In the 2015 campaign, Dedza Young Soccer (29 points), Airborne Rangers (25 points and Wizards’ 21 points were inadequate to guarantee them Super League status, but Peter Mponda’s charges sneaked back into the Super League through the backdoor of play-offs.
Three seasons ago, Blantyre United also got the chop after collecting 21 points. They went down alongside Chikwawa United (20 points) and Karonga United (16 points).
Therefore, in as far the relegation dog-fight is concerned at this stage, the relevant question is on the identities of two more teams that would join Chitipa in making a reverse trip to the second-tier Premier Division.
This is in line with Article 15 of Super League of Malawi’s (Sulom) rules and regulations, which are very clear on what it takes for a team to preserve its status in the top-flight league.
“At the end of every season, the bottom three teams shall automatically be relegated from the Super League and the top team in each of the three regional leagues shall be promoted into the Super League; unless otherwise decided by the Sulom Executive Committee,” reads the article.
At this stage, the battle for survival is among Blantyre United, Premier Bet Wizards, Red Lions, Masters Security and Dwangwa United, who complete the bottom rung of the league’s log table.
Second-from-bottom Blantyre United have 21 points from 27 games, slightly below 14th placed Wizards’ 23 points from 27 games.
Chitipa, who were affected by travelling long distances and a paper-thin squad without quality, wind up their season with matches against Mzuni, Wizards and Lions.
Moyale Barracks and Kamuzu Barracks also stand in the survival way of Wizards whereas Blantyre United must confront Mzuni, Civil Sporting Club and Masters Security.
The maximum points’ tally for Blantyre United is 30 points whereas Wizards can go as far as 32 points, meaning that Azam Tigers, who have 30 points from 28 games, plus Mzuni (31 points from 26 games), will sail to the safety zone with one more win.
Lions (27 points from 25 games), Masters (28 points from 24 games) and Dwangwa (28 points from 24 games) are also living dangerously on positions 12, 11 and 10 respectively.
Masters Coach, Abbas Makawa, is, however, in no doubt that his rookies will sail through to the proverbial Canaan.
“We will survive relegation. We will finish the league on December 23 after playing against Nyasa Big Bullets, and you can contact me on that day to confirm what I am saying,” Makawa told Times Radio on Tuesday.
For Blantyre United, they must be regretting that they hired, months too late, Coach McDonald Mtetemera, who, after struggles, has found his feet and the team is able to collect vital points.
However, the prospect of Blantyre United surviving relegation seems far-fetched. They can only survive after serious misfortunes strike teams above them.
Still down the table, Lions and Wizards must be wondering as to how they turned from being championship contenders to relegation strugglers.
Lions’ 2-0 win over Wizards last week must have given hope to new coach Nelson Chirwa, who replaced Mike Kumanga and his deputy Pritchard Mwansa.
“The boys did a fantastic job. We changed some things and told them to believe in themselves. The win is crucial and it will inspire us to move up the log table,” Chirwa told The Daily Times edition of November 20.
Lions have lacked the consistency and ambition evident in other Malawi Defence Force teams such as Kamuzu Barracks and Moyale Barracks.
Chirwa might have been the cure that the doctor ordered for Lions but he seems to have come late.
If Chirwa was a picture of optimism after the final whistle at Chilomoni Stadium in Blantyre, the same could not be said of Wizards’ interim mentor Simeon Kapuza.
“Honestly, our survival is no longer in our hands,” Kapuza said.
Poor perks and continued loss of star-players, who are never replaced, has left Wizards on a free-fall. They seem on their way out of the big time domestic football.
Survival in the Super League is for the fittest.
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