When Big Bullets landed a K500 million five-year Nyasa Manufacturing Company (NMC) sponsorship, the People’s Team supporters envisaged a fruitful 2016 season.
After winning the Super League back to back in 2014 and 2015 without a sponsor, Bullets were optimistic of good tidings with the coming in of NMC.
However, what they are left with is a series of shattered dreams as all they could manage was the Presidential Cup which they won courtesy of a controversial late penalty against Moyale Barracks that forced the match to be decided through post-match penalties.
But all along the writing was on the wall as early as the first round of the season.
Bullets’ play was atrocious. All the supporters are left with are memories of the once envied passing game they used to be known for.
They lost their invincibility and ended up dropping precious points even at their fortress Kamuzu Stadium against teams such as Red Lions and Azam Tigers and struggled against relegated minnows Karonga United.
No wonder they failed to top the league table for a good part of the season until November before surrendering the title to Kamuzu Barracks.
The People’s Team miserable season reached anti-climax with an embarrassing 5-1 aggregate loss to arch-rivals Be Forward Wanderers in the Luso TV Bus Ipite Bonanza recently.
The Nomads ended Bullets dominance in style, white-washing the misfiring People’s Team 3-0 at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre then seven days later repeating the feat at newly-built Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe with a 2-1 win.
Bullets trustees secretary Jim Kalua observed that the team’s performance was affected by several factors.
He said: “My brother the season has been a mixed bag. A lot of positive developments were there, but how we have finished the season has affected us badly. We had unnecessary draws due to some issues within technical panel and that cost us the league. We were waiting for other teams to do the job for us.
“The politics which was at the club affected our campaign. For example, it took some time for members to accept an endorsement of former chairperson Sam Chilunga and incumbent Noel Lipipa, who to me, made a very big difference.”
At the onset of the season, a fierce infighting led to rival camps—one led by hand-picked chairperson Sam Chilunga—and another by vice-chairperson Sadik Malinga.
All the elected members were later forced to resign with the backing of the sponsors, who threatened to pull out if anyone opposed Chilunga’s leadership.
But in a twist of events, Chilunga was also forced out of the position in August last year at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) that saw Lipipa, who had earlier been bludgeoned to resign as treasurer, returned as chairperson.
Bullets also spent a good part of the season arguing on whether or not to sell the club to sponsors NMC.
The move was later defeated after the trustees shot down the idea at the club’s EGM.
Analyst Enos Chatama pointed out that these incidents affected the team as the Bullets family was split.
“The working relationship amongst the executive, technical panel and the players was not all that cordial .There is a lot of politics at Bullets,” Chatama said.
He also blamed players, who at times abandoned their job on the pitch and joined the bandwagon in football politics as they took sides in the infighting.
“They have brought some players from a different culture altogether who want money more than doing the job on the field of play. The technical panel is biased and not strong enough to deal with certain situations. There is a lot to be done. The team lacks leadership, balance and love amongst the players,” he said.
Another analyst Charles Nyirenda is of the view that apart from the infighting, Bullets is rusty and lacks depth.
He said: “The current team took off in 2011 and reached its peak three years later and has been up there since, but now it could be that the side requires to beef up in certain positions.”
Meanwhile, during the raging storm, Bullets hired and fired several coaches.
Franco Ndawa faced fierce resistance after he was hired at the beginning of the season by Chilunga. Despite winning the Presidential Cup, he was shown the exit after Bullets were knocked out of the Carlsberg Cup by Mafco.
With just two games before wrapping up the season, Bullets also fired assistant coach Mabvuto Lungu, team manager Rahim Ishmael and goalkeeper trainer Swadick Sanudi allegedly for insubordination.
2017 is election year for the People’s Team and more politics should be expected as candidates once again employ all dirty tricks in the book to fight for positions at the club. n