Qualified or under-qualified, love him or loathe him, Eliah Kananji is the country’s most successful coach as far as the Carlsberg Cup is concerned.
Yes, in football you need a little bit of luck, but definitely not four times it takes a genius, and Kananji is.
When he won the Carlsberg Cup with Nyasa Big Bullets in 2014 after beating Zomba United 2-0 at Kamuzu Stadium through Victor Limbani and Tizgowere Kumwenda goals, many felt it was just a fluke against a lower league side.
Bullets fired Kananji on flimsy reasons and he found refuge at Lali Lubani Road Wanderers.
The following year, Bullets regretted firing Kananji as he guided Wanderers to beat them 2-1 in the first-ever derby final since the 2003 abandonment match.
Victor Nyirenda and Kondwani Kumwenda won the cup for Wanderers while Jaffali Chande scored for Bullets. Many still doubted the Confederation of African Football (CAF) licence holder’s capabilities, calling him underqualifed to lead the Nomads.
To prove he is not a sham, Kananji defended the cup with Wanderers in 2016, after defeating Silver Strikers 5-4 through post match penalties, following a one-all draw.
The Nomads became bigheaded and fired Kananji, boasting that it was the players that did the job and not the coach. Kananji was welcomed back at Bullets as assistant coach to Nsanzurwimo Ramadhan.
The Burundian tactician was suspended due to poor performance, leaving Kananji in charge of the Carlsberg Cup campaign.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) fumed, slapping Bullets with a K100 000 fine for using the under-qualified coach, according to club licensing regulations.
But Kananji did not let this disrupt his campaign and yesterday he broke yet another record that even the most highly decorated coach in the country has never achieved.
Kananji is the only coach to have won the Carlsberg Cup more than any other coach. He is also the only coach to have won the cup twice with Wanderers and Bullets.
But the coach downplayed his achievement, attributing it to team spirit. He said: “This is not a an individual achievement. It takes supporters, officials, players to achieve this feat. Above all, God is the one who makes plans. Without Him we are nothing.”
Unfortunately, the Carlsberg Cup was the last for Kananji as Bullets interim head coach following FAM’s directive.
But soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said Kananji can no longer be ignored by football authorities. “FAM should ensure Kananji gets necessary papers,” he said.