Malawi’s Nyasa Big Bullets return to Cecafa-Kagame Club Championship after a 28-year absence when they face hosts Young Africans SC (Yanga) at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Tanzania on Sunday afternoon.
Bullets, then called Bata Bullets, were regulars in the competition but went on break in 1993 and now they return to the competition as guest participants. The game kicks off at 6pm Southern Africa time.
Bullets are part of Cecafa football heritage and their best performance was in 1993 when they reached the semi-finals, losing 3-0 to Nakivubo Villa of Uganda, now renamed SC Villa.
Bullets had matched the standards which their rivals Limbe Leaf Wanderers had set by reaching the semi-final in 1991 when they lost 3-1 to Villa.
Costal Union should have played in the semi-final but they did not show up for the game in Dar-es-Salaam, hence Wanderers replaced them.
Malawi clubs last participated in Cecafa Club Championship in 1993 after, the following year, Silver Strikers were denied entry into the tournament in Sudan for having registered late for the event even though Cecafa secretariat had entertained Kenya’s Gor Mahia who arrived late for the opening match against El Merreikh in 1994.
Bullets are in form having won five and drawn once in the last six domestic league games to top the log table on 48 points from 22 games, two points ahead of Silver Strikers who have 46 points having played one game more.
The 14-time Malawi champions warmed up for Cecafa Cup by coming from behind to beat Silver 2-1 on Friday at Kamuzu Stadium, thanks to goals from captain Chimwemwe Idana and Precious Phiri.
Bullets will parade seasoned striker Chiukepo Msowoya who is a familiar face in Cecafa Cup championship having, alongside compatriot Victor Nyirenda, led Rwanda’s APR to the championship after beating Ethiopia’s Saint George in Rwanda in 2010.
However, Bullets feature Msowoya sparingly as he has enough mileage in his legs, preferring to start upfront with up-and-coming Lanjesi Nkhoma and Hassan Kajoke who has since returned in time for the Tanzania trip from unsuccessful trials at Cape Town City in South Africa.
Assistant coach Peter Mponda will lead Bullets as head coach Kalisto Pasuwa is recovering from Covid-19 which has also ruled out midfielder Mischeck Selemani.
On the other hand, the domestic season in Tanzania ended last month with Yanga finishing on second place on 74 points from 34 games, nine points behind eventual champions Simba SC.
Cecafa website says Yanga coach Nasreddine Nabi might rest most of his key players for the match.
Cecafa Competitions Director, Yusuf Mosi, has since declared that teams were ready for the showdown.
“We are happy to stage this regional tournament now because we believe it will help our teams prepare for CAF competitions starting in September this year,” Cecafa website quotes Mosi saying.
Bullets and Yanga are in Group A alongside Express FC (Uganda) Atlabara FC (South Sudan) whereas defending champions KCCA FC from Uganda lead Group B comprising Azam FC (Tanzania), Le Messager Ngozi FC (Burundi) and KMKM SC (Burundi).
Eight teams will slug it out in the tournament which runs from August 1 to 14 in Dar es Salaam, after Gor Mahia pulled out.
The best two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-final stage.
Yanga v Bullets
Express FC v Altabara FC
Le Messager Ngozi v KMKM SC
KCCA FC v Azam FC
Group A: Young Africans SC (Tanzania), Nyasa Big Bullets (Malawi), Express FC (Uganda) Atlabara FC (South Sudan)
Group B: KCCA FC (Uganda), Azam FC (Tanzania), Le Messager Ngozi FC (Burundi), KMKM SC (Burundi)