By Mabvuto Kambuwe:
The time for joy, pain and sorrow is back as the 2019 TNM Super League rolls into life this afternoon with mouth-watering fixtures lined up across the country.
This year’s campaign kicks off with the theme ‘Pokopoko-Bring the Noise’ which encourages supporters to cheer their teams all the way.
Sponsor TNM coined the theme in full knowledge of the fact that football is a universal game which knows no language, tribe or political affiliation boundaries.
This is a game that simply brings excitement and moments of pain to players and fans alike.
It is that time of the year when teams will go back to fighting for points week in, week out, as they tussle for either the league title or surviving relegation.
Action is indeed returning after a four-month off-season break, with TN Stars hosting Nyasa Big Bullets in the official opening match at Kasungu Stadium this afternoon.
It is the first time that the big occasion is taking place outside the three major cities of Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre.
The choice of Kasungu appears to be for a good reason because last season, the tobacco-growing district proved that it can bring the noise to the game.
It is that noise which saw Kasungu Stadium earning the most revenue from a single match out of all district stadiums.
As usual, the journey in the elite league is expected to be tough for all the teams.
Just like the marathon that it is, the top flight league only matters most on how you finish it without necessarily going back to how you started it.
But it is a fact that all the teams in the league would like to start the season on a high. For this reason, it would be a special moment for Kasungu fans to witness the launch match between Bullets and Stars.
This is the third time Bullets and Stars are meeting in the league. In the first meeting, Bullets thrashed Stars 4-1 at the same venue before a 2-0 victory at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
Stars Coach Meke Mwase said he was aiming at starting the season on a high by beating the defending champions.
“We do not want to give Bullets too much respect on the pitch because we want maximum points in the first game. It will not be easy for both teams but we have trust in the squad we have assembled,” Mwase said.
Buoyed by their impressive performance during the Ecobank Charity Shield two weeks ago, Bullets are also aiming at starting the season with victory.
Coach Kallisto Pasuwa, who was in charge of Bullets in seven games last season, has to prove his credentials by successfully defending the league title.
But it will not be a stroll in the pack for the Zimbabwean as fellow giants Be Forward Wanderers and Strikers are also strong favourites to win the title every year.
Team Manager James Chilapondwa said his charges are treading carefully ahead of the opener.
“It is time to get down to serious business and we want to start with a win. We know it will be tough at their backyard but we have to show our fans that we are ready to retain the title,” Chilapondwa said.
Bullets are likely to assign the duty of scoring goals to veteran striker Chiukepo Msowoya, Mike Mkwate and Nelson Kangunje.
At the back, Bullets have several options in captain John Lanjesi, Miracle Gabeya, Pilirani Zonda and Gomegzani Chirwa and Yamikani Fodya.
But in this fixture, Bullets should exercise caution as Stars have plenty of dangerous weapons in China Chirwa, Stain Davie, Laurent Banda and Ian Chinyama.
Another potentially exciting match involves last season’s runners-up Wanderers and Mzuni at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The Nomads always have a strong squad capable of winning everything.
Coach Bob Mpinganjira knows that there is always pressure to deliver at a big team such as Wanderers.
The Nomads have talented players such Babatunde Adepoju, Francis Mkonda, Zicco Mkanda and Stanley Sanudi.
Up North, Silver Strikers, who finished third last season, have a daunting task against unpredictable Karonga United at Karonga Stadium today before meeting returnees Chitipa United tomorrow at the same venue.
Masters Security will be in action against Moyale at Dedza Stadium this afternoon whereas Dwangwa United will face Mighty Tigers at Chitowe Stadium.
Action continues tomorrow as Blue Eagles host Moyale at Nankhaka Stadium whereas Mlatho Mponela will start their top flight league campaign against Civil Sporting Club at Kasungu Stadium.