It certainly was a throwback to the golden era when Carlsberg made Malawi football greener by sponsoring the Carlsberg Cup.
The giant local brewer on Tuesday turned back the hands of time by announcing that it will bail out the countryâ€™s football powerhousesâ€”Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderersâ€”with undisclosed sponsorship package.
That was not all. Carlsberg Malawi also announced that it will reintroduce the national cup which will now be called Carlsberg Malawi Cup.
Ironically, the companyâ€™s romance with local football came to an abrupt end in 2003 when the final match between Bullets and Wanderers ended in controversy.
While Carlsberg Malawiâ€™s group marketing manager Gwynyth Mchiela and senior brands manager Twikale Chirwa kept a tight lid on the sponsorship packages for the teams as well as the cup, a well-placed source confided in Nation Online that the brewing company has pledged K15 million (about $60 000) per team.
The two officials said the launch of the sponsorship will be held in the first week of July when all details pertaining to the packages will be unveiled and the two teams will be involved in a play-off match to mark the beginning of the marriage.
The jubilant manner in which fans from both teams greeted the news, emphasised the significance of the momentâ€”it was a confirmation to the brandâ€™s mottoâ€”it goes with a Carlsberg.
“It has been a journey indeed for Carlsberg Malawi to make a decision to finally sponsor local football.
“We at Carlsberg Malawi are going to sponsor Carlsberg Malawi Cup for a period of three years,” said Mchiela amid ululation from the turnout.
She, however, announced that the two giants will have to compete for the continued sponsorship based on discipline, fair play and performance.
She also said her companyâ€™s vision is to commercialise football in the country.
“When we invest sponsorship like this, there is money attached to it. Carlsberg Malawi, therefore, expects a win-win situation for us to continue sponsoring. We obviously expect an increase in terms of volume and sales,” she said.
Mchiela also announced that apart from the sponsorship package, Carlsberg will also be running promotions to benefit the two clubs.
Chirwa said for this season, the Nomads and Bullets will remain with their current names until such a time that the company will choose which club to sponsor.
“When we make a decision, they will be called either Carlsberg Bullets or Carlsberg Wanderers,” he said.
Chirwa also emphasised that it is Carlsbergâ€™s wish that commercialisation should be driven by the fans.
“We want to bring back the glory days of â€˜Alukiâ€™ [Andrew Chikhosi], â€˜Kikaâ€™ [Albert Mpinganjira] and â€˜Luleâ€™ [Lawrence Waya]. We want to revive local football through commercialisation,” he said.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu said he was happy that he had lived to his promise to find sponsorship for the two giants as well as to bring another national cup.
“What else can we ask for? Today, our prayers have been heard. The news we have just received today is good news. Ndipo ngati pali munthu wokwiya ndiye ndi mfiti!” said Nyamilandu as the fans cheered in appreciation.
Bullets chairperson Malinda Chinyama and the Nomads general secretary David Kanyenda also hailed Carlsberg Malawi for the move.
Said Chinyama: “Carlsberg are a good Samaritan to Malawi football because they will not only sponsor us, but will also help in the commercialisation drive.”
Bullets have been without steady sponsorship since 2004 when former president Bakili Muluzi stopped funding them while the Nomads were until last year sponsored by Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL).
Kanyenda said corporate sponsorship was conspicuous by its absence.
Apart from Carlsberg Malawi management team, notably present at the event were former Wanderers chairperson Humphrey Mvula and Bullets board of trustees member Fred Kwacha.