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Why Civo are in a mess

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The patient is unresponsive to treatment. The first doctor failed. The second doctor, too, tried and successfully failed. Every dosage, every combination, Chinese herbs, traditional medicine all cannot just work. The life support machine has to be switched off. Waiting for the inevitable.

The doctor has made it clear that it is now not a question of whether the patient will die, but a matter of when. The patient knows they will die anyway.

But just when everyone has given up, there are times when such patients, whose survival is ruled out, defy convention. They survive in a manner that can only be connected to divine intervention.

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And transporting the above imaginary situation to the TNM Super League survival battle for Civo United, it is easy to conclude that with 21 points from 25 games, or a maximum of 36 points, survival is no longer in their hands.

Last season, Civo finished on 10th place with 34 points from 28 games. But the increase of the league size from 15 to 16 teams means that teams need more points to get into the league’s safety zone.

Roughly a team needs 35 points to survive whereas with 15 clubs in the league, 30 points was the survival mark. Last season, Civo posted nine wins, seven draws and 12 losses. This term, Civo have registered four wins, nine draws and 11 defeats.

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Even if they win all their remaining games—very unlikely considering that they have not won in six second round games since Coach Charles Manda replaced sacked Millias Pofera—Civo can still not survive the chop.

“We cannot defend and score,” Manda summed up Civo’s struggles after losing 1-0 to Blue Eagles on Wednesday.

Sooner or later, Super League of Malawi (Sulom) will have to apply Article 15 of the Rules and Regulations on relegation and promotion and flush out two more teams to join disbanded Max Bullets.

“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 in part.

With Karonga placed third from bottom with 24 points from 26 games, they seem every bit the second team bound for relegation. Civo might complete the list.

Off the pitch, if Civo finish above the Oscar Kaunda-coached Karonga, the civil servants can be handed a lifeline. This lifeline will come if tinkering Malawi Defence Force (MDF) go by their word to trim their number of teams in the Super League from four to three.

Slashing the MDF teams can create room for Civo’s survival as the bottom-placed MDF team among Kamuzu Barracks, Red Lions, Moyale Barracks and Mafco, will be the second relegation candidate. This will leave Sulom with a simple job of just identifying the third club.

However, now that is a matter of ifs. Civo’s life in the Super League no longer depends on Manda, let alone results on the pitch. They need external salvation.

But how did Civo find themselves in all this mess?

Not that Civo are in an unfamiliar territory. Last season, they too, went eight opening league games without a win and looked dangerously heading for the dust bin. Only for Kaunda to right the wrongs.

At the end of last season, Civo finished on 10th position and more tellingly, defied odds to win the now defunct Standard Bank Knock-Out Trophy after defeating Be Forward Wanderers 1-0 in the final, courtesy of Nelson Kangunje’s goal.

Coincidently, Standard Bank’s withdrawal of the cup’s sponsorship seemed to have also signaled the slow and agonising death of Civo.

For non-footballing reasons, Civo, taking advantage of the whirlwind of the Club Licensing System that swept out all Super League coaches without a minimum qualification of a Caf B Licence, moved swiftly to dismiss Kaunda.

It was a big mistake. While others such as Wanderers retained unqualified Elia Kananji in the panel in a back-seat role of an assistant coach, Civo, taking advantage of Kaunda’s reported off-the-field problems with some players, fired him.

Civo opted to hire an up-and-coming Pofera plucked from modest Dedza Young Soccer.

“It hurts more that Civo are in this situation. I am not talking as a coach, but as a son of Civo’s family. I coached them, but I owe my whole football career to Civo as I also played for them,” Kaunda said yesterday.

He refused to believe that if he were still at the helm of Civo, the team could have survived relegation.

However, Kaunda has no iota of doubt that the departure of key players, such as John Lanjesi and Emmanuel Zoya, dealt the civil servants a big blow.

“I am so certain that Zoya and Lanjesi could not have left [for Nyasa Big Bullets] if Rashid Ntelera [now Fam official] were still the GS. The gentleman knew how to handle players. I am not saying the current administrators are failing, but I can only give an opinion about the man I worked with,” Kaunda added.

Indeed, save for recruiting the then unsettled defender Lameck Kachimanga from Silver Strikers, Civo did not replace Zoya and Lanjesi, who were also captain and vice-captain for Civo.

Upfront, Civo had the previous season sold the likes of Jabulani Linje, but did not replace him, leaving the weight of responsibility on Nelson Kangunje, who is more of a creator than a scorer.

Injuries and failure to pay players’ outstanding dues worsened matters for Civo this season.

In the final analysis, Civo are in this mess because Civo’s management made fundamental mistakes. Pofera yesterday gave a muted response to the question of why Civo are struggling. No comment is a comment. Civo are in deep trouble.

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