There is a bitter feeling among Malawi Defence Force (MDF) Super League clubs that the domestic football family hate the soldiers but statistics seem to suggest otherwise.
A fortnight ago, Red Lions publicist Major Hilly Magola and coach Collins Nkuna said army teams are the most hated. The remarks were made after the team lost 2-1 to Big Bullets at Kamuzu Stadium in a Fellowship Association of Malawi (Fama) Top Eight semi-final. In the match, referee Franscisco Scova ruled out for offside the soldiersâ€™ two goals.
“Our players are also Malawians, but that is not the way they are treated. The worst culprits are the referees. The misconception that we are rough is so deep-rooted,” claimed Nkuna while Magola, who eventually lodged a complaint to the National Referees Committee (NRC), suggested that Scova punished the Zomba team because they are soldiers.
During the week, Mafco chairperson Major Gift Njete said it was beyond doubt that most civilian teams target army teams probably “because they expect us to behave as â€˜extra human.”
“They should treat army teams like the rest even when meting out punishment if they misbehave. Our players are human beings first before being soldiers; hence, they too feel hurt. What happens is the typical mbuzi ikagunda galu its okay, but when galu hits back, you say ngwachiwewe,” said Njete.
However, statistics tell a different story. Three out of the top five Super League teams with the worst disciplinary record on the pitch last season were from the MDF. Only Moyale Barracks did not make the â€˜dirtiestâ€™ chart.
Sulom records show that Mafco FC collected most cautions  with a breakdown of seven red cards and 50 yellow cards followed by Silver Strikersâ€™ 49 cards [four red and 45 yellow].
Lions were third with 48 cautions of three red cards and 45 yellows. On 45 cautions [three reds and 42 yellows] is fourth-placed Mighty Wanderers. Another army side, now relegated, Cobbe Barracks, took the fifth slot on 42 yellow cards.
But Njete suggested that civilian teamsâ€™ loss of sponsorship had their supporters living in self- denial that their teams are spent forces; hence, provoke relatively stable army teams.
“The statistics really vindicate [those who accuse the army teams], but we also have to look at the background of those cards. Is it not the same issue of stereotyping? I think it is. It is unfortunate that we are yet to develop technologically. When we reach that stage of being able to review the games with credible analysts, I hope the trend will change,” he said.
Weekend Nation sourced the statistics from Sulom official records while testing â€˜the we are hated MDF sidesâ€™ theory suggested by Moyale coach Nicholas Mhango in December, then corroborated by Lions officials last week and Mafco FC in interview on Tuesday.
Mhango recently posted on his Facebook wall a message to a supposedly foreign friend that they lost the Standard Bank Cup final to Blue Eagles because Malawi football fraternity hates military teams.
In total, 583 cards were given out last season with referee Jones Makhuwira on top for showing 64 cards, three of which were red in 26 games.
Dennis Nguluwe flashed 60 cards, two of which were red; hence earning himself the second position of top disciplinarian.
Patrick Ngoleka is third for showing 56 cards, of which three were red, in 24 matches. Next on his heels is Anthony Rafaelâ€™s 49 cards of which 44 were yellow and five red in 15 games.
If he were not to eventually fail Fifa Fitness Test, fifth-positioned Duncan Lengani could have surely made it top of the list. By the time he failed the test, he had handed out 23 yellow and two red cards in eight games.
But Bullets business development manager Geoffrey Tamutamu and vice-general secretary Higger Mkandawire last week hit out at Red Lions saying they need to be disciplined for denting MDFâ€™s otherwise clean record.
Sulom general secretary Williams Banda, who refused to classify the army teams as ill-behaved, faulted shortage of referees, ignorance of laws of the game as the root cause of the cat-and-mouse relationship between teams and referees. Sulom will educate teams through a workshop.
NRC general secretary Chris Kalichero insisted that he does not have the statistics of most army teamsâ€™ fouls. He described the overall refereesâ€™ relationship with MDF teams as normal while suggesting that even civilian teams such as Azam Tigers, have attacked referees before.