The zealously glorified Blantyre derby, whose tap roots can be traced back to the 1960s, has lost its glitz and glamour as it is now defined more by off-the-field madness than the quality of the football itself.
So as Nyasa Big Bullets— determined to step up their charge for a record 14th TNM Super League title— meet Be Forward Wanderers at Kamuzu Stadium today, expect petty issues off the pitch to dominate the sights and sounds of the giant arena.
All over the stadium, expect jostling over abstract juju jazz, gate ticketing fraud, pushing and shoving, beating up each other and pitch invasion.
The derby, and, indeed domestic football, has been hijacked by hoodlums masquerading as supporters. The elements intimidate their way into everything—from dipping their wicked fingers into club coffers, poking their noses into players’ and coaches’ recruitment issues.
So expect such an engaging atmosphere off the pitch to be mismatched and betrayed on it by a dour kick-and-rush play with neither side able to dominate possession beyond two passes, display tactical awareness and intelligent play.
The father and founder of the Blantyre derby, Yasin Osman, bemoaned the dip in quality of play when the giants meet.
“I do not expect an intelligent games because both teams do not have players who can dominate and control the game, but I think we can still expect excitement,” said Osman, whose switch from Wanderers to Bullets in a first recorded domestic transfer in 1967, gave birth to the rivalry.
Modern day Wanderers’ star, Joseph Kamwendo, cannot agree more with Osman. During the week, he admitted that the derby is gradually being watered down.
“In terms of quality, it is not as it used to be. Furthermore, players can now easily switch camps. That was unheard off. Families wanted to be part of the occasion in those years, but that is not the case now due to several factors, including violence,” Kamwendo said.
Over the past decade, the derby has been decided by freak goals such as the one which Jafali Chande, after clashing with Wanderers’ goalkeeper, Richard Chipuwa, last season scored.
Chande is now at the Lali Lubani Road. Bullets also signed striker Muhammad Sulumba from Blantyre United via Wanderers.
In the first round, Nigerian striker, Amos Bello, grabbed the only goal of his Malawi football career, only for Bullets to level matters through Chiukepo Msowoya’s penalty in a 1-1 draw.
During that game, once Bullets equalised, both teams stopped competing. They were too nervous on the ball. They released it hurriedly like hot potatoes.
There are many reasons that have led to the derby losing its spark on the pitch, major of which is the clubs’ refusal to grow into established legal business entities, a dysfunctional production chain of coaches and players, supporters’ power and shocking loss of distinct playing philosophy.
At the height of their rivalry, Bullets had their trademark passing football brand that was epitomised by devastating attacking football through the middle.
Wanderers were smarter, thriving on patient build ups from the back, and usage of width. Nomads always had good wingers and Bullets had good strikers.
Overall, Bullets and Wanderers have refused to grow. The Nomads are yet to win a league title since 2006 while still being stuck on five titles in the 20-year history of the league, thereby allowing Silver Strikers to overtake them with eight championships.
Bullets’ only ended their eight-year league title drought in 2014.
It is also about the quality of the coaches and players and lack of motivation. From the current Bullets and Wanderers’ squads, only two would have made it into the derby of yesteryears.
Bullets and Wanderers change players, coaches and officials like boots. They do not have their own homes and lack the legal ownership for growth. And the supporters like the chaos because it makes them relevant and powerful.
It is such a sham and a shame, but there is only one way we can describe a meeting between Bullets and Wanderers—a derby.
Never mind that the Nomads have not beaten their rivals in 10 league meetings since 2011. And you still call that a derby? Say it with a whisper.
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