It took seven years for Big Bullets to get it right. The chemistry of old legs is but wise brains, a coach but a gentleman, novice football administrators but savvy managers and young blood powered by a charm called Gabadinho Mhango.
Such right balance completed an upturn in Bullets fortunes as they seized the K60 million (about $240 000) Presidential Cup after seeing-off Moyale Barracks 1-0 on Saturday at Civo Stadium.
This was more than a Bullets win. It was a climax of a story of a football survivor. A sign of domestic footballâ€™s return to pride and standard, argued football analyst Sunduzwayo Madise.
â€œIf they were just any other ordinary team, Bullets could have been history by now. Whether one likes it or not, how Bullets and Mighty Wanderers perform affect our national team and also patronage,â€ argued Madise.
Bullets have not only cheated death in the last seven years of doom and gloom. Barely a few days ago, they were riddled by infighting.
â€œAnd to win even after the misunderstandings is unbelievable,â€ Madise noted.
Unbelievable is the word for Bullets whose fortunes slumped rock-bottom that they could even lose to Chanco FC. All that changed Saturday afternoon.
Strong Bullets, Wanderers, Silver Strikers, among others, is what Malawi football needs. Even more with the national team, observed veteran football administrator, Yasin Osman.
â€œThe win will lift the spirits in Bullets and this could be reflected in the league. In the long run, this will widen the level of competition among the big teams,â€ Osman explained.
In getting the cup, Bulletsâ€™ lone goal sniper Gabadinho also seized the Golden Boot Award with eight goals in eight games.
It is time for the Ministry of Youth and Sports to declare the 20-year-old from Chiweta, Rumphi, a protected football treasure. Enough of the little genius.
Never undermine the contribution of defender George Nyirenda, Malawiâ€™s own David Luis. Bullets are built on style in everything. Nyirenda has it in abundance, including the dreadlocks. In the midfield, the last time Bullets won a worthwhile trophy, the Super League in 2005, they had strong characters.
The return of Fischer Kondowe and James Chilapondwa with the addition of veteran Heston Munthali rubbed off the young players. Their legs might be going, but they have the football brains. They just know when to kill a game and when to never give up. Bullets now never stop believing even when the chips are down.
â€œI told the boys that we must never be afraid to talk to each other, to confront each other on the pitch when not performing to expectations. Now, we are a team with common sense of purpose,â€ Kondowe revealed recently.
Coaches get the flack for every defeat; hence, Eddington Ngâ€™onamo should also get the credit for putting on its feet this giant which went to sleep in 2005. Other coaches, even those born and bred in Bullets, did not just have the thick skin that Ngâ€™onamo has.
Gilbert Chirwa came and went twice. Likeable Meke Mwase, too, felt he had reached the dead end of Bullets misery. Dave Mpesi, too, was pushed out. Legendary Mabvuto Lungu restored the conventional Bullets style of play, but being on the learning ropes, his tactics were found wanting. He didnâ€™t survive.
Now that Bullets have, after missing Fama Cup gold by a whisker, finally made it right in the Presidential Cup, it all points to one man, Ngâ€™onamo.
â€œI am the happiest man on earth. The mixture of old and young players worked for us,â€ Ngâ€™onamo told the press on Saturday.
The improvement in their talisman Gabadinhoâ€™s game; the restoration of Bulletsâ€™ conventional passing play; the improvisation of a three-pronged attack unheard of since the days of Andrew Chikhosi, Chikondi Banda and Muzipasi Mwangonde and the gamble with a three-man defence, all these point to Ngâ€™onamo.
â€œThe first thing I did was to restore discipline,â€ Ngâ€™onamo said a few months ago.
There were also other key ingredients to the success. The fans. But during the teamâ€™s struggles, the fans were there, helpless. Most of the times, the fans were the destructive elements. They pushed out the Gideon Kalumbu administration, the Cifu tenure did not last, Madise regime could not withstand the heat. It was similar trouble for Trouble Kalua.
Yet a group of marketers, academicians, managers and accountants led by Malinda Chinyama took the business investment risk. They pooled their resources, establishing structures, earning the confidence of the players, the fans and the wider public.
They did not go out with a begging bowel. They, instead, invested their money in a clubhouse, hosted music gigs, drama and even took time to make peace with the teamâ€™s forgotten past, its legends.Â
The sight of old Bulletsâ€™ men Dennis Saidi, Henry Moyo, Yasin Osman, Michael Nkuntha reunited on that Comesa Hall Red Night just did the trick. The team was finally at peace with its past, ready to take head on the present while bracing for the future.
There was nothing accidental with Bulletsâ€™ success. â€œIt is never easy managing a team such as Bullets,â€ said Kalua.
A chase for a treble is on track. Bullets have won the battle on the pitch but off it, a grander battle over the control of the team must have just started.