In keeping with tradition, SportsXtra picks a squad of stand-out players for the 2012/13 season which wound up on Sunday in Malawi. As the curtain fell, Silver Strikers were declared champions while Escom United, Kabwafu United and Bvumbwe Research were relegated. SportsXtra sticks to a conventional 4-4-2 formation.
Eddington Ng’onamo (Big Bullets)
Even with an axe hanging above his head as some hard-to-please Bullets fans viewed him as a Mighty Wanderers ‘plant’, Ng’onamo earned Bullets the Presidential Cup—its first worthwhile silverware since 2005.
Bullets also made it to the Standard Bank Knockout Trophy semi-finals. Unsurprisingly, Ng’onamo won the trust of FAM to appoint him Flames stand-in coach. He is an educated football man. He is credited for gambling with a 3-4-3 formation, which is rare on the domestic scene.
Charles Swini (Silver Strikers) The Bankers are notorious for scoring, as in letting in cheap goals. But with Swini joining them late in the season, they were able to keep some clean sheets which were key to their healthiest aggregate. A good shot-stopper with a sense of timing and an ideal matching height. But he needs to learn to communicate more with his defenders. It was a close call with Owen Chaima of Big Bullets.
Lucky Malata (Silver Strikers): This big boy just came from nowhere to command Silver defence and earn the often political captain’s armband. He is certainly best defender of the year contender owing to his forceful performances. He fits every idea of a defender; big, strong and tall. He is a consistent man-marker. A goal or two would do his rising graph a favour.
Sankhani Mkandawire (Big Bullets): Returning from a two-year spell at Carara Kicks in South Africa, he has provided Bullets’ backline with the aerial presence and command that was lacking. He can play from the back, he is a good tackler and has positional sense. He needs to, once in a while, score from set-piece. He can sometimes be wasteful with long range clearances. He needs to guard against overconfidence.
Douglas Chirambo (Big Bullets): His transition from a left-winger to a left-back has been seamless this season, giving Bullets defensive and attacking options. He can also score some crucial goals. His discipline has improved. His biggest asset is his peak work ethic. A conventional Bullets player with a never-say die spirit.
John Lanjesi (Civo United): Steve Chagoma of Blue Eagles is good, but barring injuries, the Civo man is better varying his play with impeccable overlapping.
Joseph Kamwendo (Mighty Wanderers, now with Liga Maculmana): Eight league goals is a good return for a midfielder. He was solely missed at Lali Lubani Road in the last few games. He showed the young brigade the way with his tricks and flicks. He remains the best passer of the ball in Malawi.
Harvey Mkacha (Silver Strikers): Talk about technique, passing, elegance, split vision and an eye for goal, this injury-prone lanky midfielder has it all. He is among the reasons Silver are league champions. Unfortunately, he spends more time on the treatment table.
Gabadinho Mhango (Big Bullets): In terms of league goals alone, he is behind the pecking order with 14 goals; hence, he makes the best XI as an attacking midfielder. It is just unthinkable to leave him out. Keep feet on the ground and hold the temper!
Micium Mhone (Blue Eagles): A busy boy who is never afraid to take on defenders, packs a powerful shot, can dribble and speed like a train. His increasing man-of-the-match awards say it all.
Ishmael Thindwa (Epac): He is a good target man. Probably, the tallest striker locally. Before Sunday’s game, he was the second highest top scorer with 16 goals, proving what a natural goal grabber he is. Thindwa surrendered the golden boot chase. More time in the gym would make him better.
Vincent Chinthenga (Bvumbwe Research): Reason? He scored more than anyone else in the league, nine months after also bagging the Golden Boot Award in the Premier Division with 25 goals. He loses focus easily and his small physique is a setback for a striker.
Assistant coach: Frank ‘Franco’ Ndawa; Owen Chaima (Bullets); Dennis Mughogho (Kabwafu United); Dennis Kambewa (Kamuzu Barracks); Sparrow Msowoya, Jimmy Chikukekule (both Blantyre United; Chikulekule is now at Mozambique’s Matchedje FC); James Chilapondwa (Big Bullets); Osward Nkagula (Mafco).