Zingwangwa United have become the first team to win the Standard Bank Unayo Southern Region Football Association (SRFA) Division One League championship after defeating Ndirande Stars 6-5 on penalties at Balaka Stadium on Sunday.
The match ended one-all in regulation time after the league’s joint top goal scorer Kondwani Kucheza of Stars cancelled out the goal of Mervin Suleiman, who gave United the lead in the 12th minute.
Kucheza finished as the competition’s joint top scorer with Balaka’s Victor Shonga after they each scored 43 goals.
It was perfect revenge for Zingwangwa, who lost to Stars in the league and drew once.
The champions’ coach Dida Zingwangwa said they had accomplished their mission in their debut season in the third-tier league.
“It is double celebration for me because I have just acquired a Caf C Licence coaching badge. It was a difficult match but, overall, we played well. I salute my boys for making this happen in our first season in Division One. We expect the same as we progress to the Premier Division,” he said.
Stars Team Manager Kuruwa Ngwira said they were at pains, having lost two silverware within two weeks following their earlier 2-1 defeat to Nyasa Big Bullets Reserve in the final of the Nyasa Capital Finance Cup.
“Anything can happen in post-match penalties. Actually, it is a gamble and victory can go either way, as has happened today,” Ngwira said.
For winning the title, United got K2 million while runner-up Stars received K1.5 million.
In the third-place match, Ngabu United beat hosts Balaka FC 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in the third-place match to receive K1 million.
Fourth-placed Balaka pocketed K750,000.
SRFA Chairperson Raphael Humba said the maiden season was successful.
“The performance of Division One teams is similar to that of teams in the Premier Division. It shows that we are moving in the right direction,” he said.
Football Association of Malawi (Fam) First Vice- President Jabbar Alide hailed Standard Bank plc for supporting the league.
“We are hopeful that the regional third-tier leagues will improve in the country due to this sponsorship,” he said.
Standard Bank plc Head of Platform Business Effie Malange was equally impressed with the level of competition.
“The inaugural season has been a success and we hope to see more next season,” she said.
Last year, Standard Bank renewed its football relationship with a three-year K138.3 million sponsorship package for Division One leagues in the country’s three regions.
The bank stopped sponsoring the Standard Bank Cup, which was competed for by TNM Super League teams, in 2016.