Road to the uncertain 2020 TNM Super league run

TNM Super League 2020

In the thick of things, people often give up, but the wise pursue further for they know it is possible (NdiZotheka) to overcome such circumstances.

Did sponsors of the Super League in Malawi, TNM envision this before when they developed a NdiZotheka slogan for the 2020-2021 season? Otherwise it has been a hectic run, the first longest season running up to a year.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 in the year 2019 when teams were on break necessitated a stop on all sporting activities.

Yes, the then president, Arthur Peter Mutharika made the decision through the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 which he had just instituted. 

That meant the players would have a long of season, with their return on the pitch dictated by the COVID-19 response to intervention in progress that time.

At that time, the league was ready to welcome new teams, Red Lions from the Southern Region, MAFCO in the Central Region, and Ekwendeni Hammers in the Northern Region.

However, that helped the teams to discover new techniques to keep their players fit through the virtual training sessions, while military and police teams had an upper hand continuing their physical activities as military people.

Several intervention were made by Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and Super League of Malawi (Sulom) to push for football restart after the COVID-19 cases seemed to have normalised.

A football return taskforce was set produced a plan that was presented to their COVID-19 counterparts.

After a long tussle, the football return was given a nod with strict condition of no spectators at the stadia.

Football is business, work and source of living to people like players. Most of them suffered since teams could not manage to pay them salaries, training allowances.

Some teams even went as far as cutting down salaries for the players. It was unbearable.

It forced supporters to form a group, led by former Nyasa Big Bullets supporters general secretary, Mabvuto Chibambo, and Mighty Wanderers counterpart, Sam Mponda petitioning FAM to initiate football return bearing in mind the financial consequences their teams suffered in managing idle players, and the torture the players themselves were encountering by not playing.

To cushion their problems, FAM with COVID-19 funds from FIFA provided a monthly cash  to the league players.

Football return was therefore a sigh of relief to many.

Silver Strikers FC
Silver Strikers in action against Ekwendeni

Super League of Malawi (Sulom) announced the start of the season in October, seven months late. 

The first weeks of the league were very difficult as the league owners had to ensure the safety of everyone at the stadium, first time running with 50 people in the stadia.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided, and social distancing strictly observed.

Red Lions, Civo, Ekwendeni Hammers seemed to have a good run in the first weeks of the league, while giants like Wanderers, Bullets, Silver Strikers and Blue Eagles started on a low. 

As things normalised in the league after about two months, sporting activities were stopped again due to escalating COVID-19 figures such that players stayed until March when the nod was given again to resume play in April.

The break, and injuries affected teams like Nyasa Big Bullets, such that chances of defending the title started fading away.

Since the return in March, it has been a marathon, with the champion declared with a game to go.

The pro-longed season, COVID-19 break did not take away the entertainment part that the league brings, as supporters also kept pushing for their return in the stadia and they achieved it. 

The 2020 season saw giant and league regular, Blue Eagles struggle and spending most part fighting for relegation. Thanks to their last victory against Mighty Wanderers 3-1 at Kamuzu Stadium which secured their place in the next season.

Disturbing moments could not miss in the run, as Bullets and Wanderers were also found on the wrong side of the law after a chaotic Blantyre Derby, which led to their fines. 

As usual, three teams had to bow out of the league to pave way for the other new sides to get promotion from the lower leagues.

From the onset, Mzuzu Warriors and Chitipa United were potential relegation customers, despite the latter's effort to survive that was thwarted by Eagles' win.

Ntopwa also bid farewell to the league after two seasons running.

Mzuzu Warriors and Ntopwa pushed for their stay, asking for a consideration to remain citing the effect of COVID-19 provided unfavourable conditions for them to survive.

Ntopwa FC
Ntopwa has something to show from the league

During the Sulom AGM, the teams argued that with the stop on sporting activities, the regional leagues might not produce competitive sides to adapt the top league pressure.

The championship was centred on three giants, Silver Strikers, Bullets and Wanderers.

From the sloppy run in the first round, the Nomads managed to push to third-place, while the Bankers missed it with a whisker to claim top spot.

At the end, it was the fighting spirit that worked for Bullets to retain the title.

The commercialisation of Silver Strikers and Wanderers also hyped the moments of the 2020 season.

The Bankers hired Zambian coach, Daniel Kabwe who was given targets and was eager to deliver and win the team a league tile after over 10 years. 

The financial struggle at Wanderers seemed to have settled partially after taking the same route.

The blue side appointed business tycoon, Thomson Mpinganjira president of the team.

Hassan Kajoke of Nyasa Big Bullets managed to win the golden-boot award scoring 15, even though he failed to beat last year's record at 21 goals by Khuda Muyaba.

Kajoke failed to even beat his own record 17 goals for last season.

Just like all other seasons, the 2020-2021 has been a success, and teams proved that it is possible (NdiZotheka) to run even under strict difficult times.