Division One Tidings of Mighty Mufulira Wanderers Football Club

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Mighty Mufulira Wanderers, Zambia’s most successful football club, are back in the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) Supper League after one year of absence. During the 2018 season, they were relegated to division one but that shameful demotion was to bring more joy than sorrow to the players and fans. Truth be told, it opened up to more blissful activities than it otherwise would had they stayed in the premier league. It also gave the team time to reorganize themselves, which they seem to have done, and face more competitive football head-on.

Towards the close of the 2017 season, as the Mopani Copper Mine sponsored lads were wallowing in the relegation zone, they were trying to outdo clubs like Nchanga Rangers, Kabwe Warriors and Nakambala Leopards to remain afloat. Unfortunately, they were short of the required prowess and ended up fourth from the bottom and slid downwards together with Konkola Blades, Real Nakonde and City of Lusaka. And as was expected, they also suffered a few losses when some of their top men were snatched by elite clubs in the top league.

After losing their last game to Nkana in the same season, Wanderers were just packing their belongings when there appeared a thin line of hope for them to continue in the premier league. Word went around that the newly promoted side Kabwe Youth Soccer Academy (KYSA) had no funds to meet the FAZ super league requirements and might not make it to elite football. Mufulira, being the best of the relegated four teams and financially capable, were the most likely to be offered to buy the vacant berth. However, somebody rescued KYSA and they didn’t hesitate to grab their hard-earned promotion. That was really sad for the expectant Wanderers fans!

Now, the nine-time Zambian Premier League Champions are back in their homestead with glad tidings to tell from their division one stint. Very likely, they wouldn’t have entertained their fans as much as they did if they had stayed in the top league.

Here are their success stories from the lower rank:

UNBEATEN RECORD

Mighty Mufulira Wanderers (or Maite, as they are called locally) lived up to their name as they proved a force recon with in division one football. They recorded only two losses, eight draws and 20 wins in all their 30 games and topped the league table most of the season. Their slogan “Mpaka Litente” (Meaning we will not rest until the net shakes) proved true in the majority of their matches. That meant multiple pats on their backs and warm fuzzies for the fans throughout the season.

BARCLAYS CUP

By virtue of their position in division one, they earned a slot in the Barclays Cup competition. Although they were eliminated by Power Dynamos in the quarter finals on penalty shootouts, they had a chance to shower their fans with exceptional ecstasy. It was also a yard stick for them to measure how they would fair when their imminent promotion came. If Maite had remained in the super league, nobody can say with certainty if they would not have participated in that competition sponsored by the bankers.

PROMOTION TO SUPER LEAGUE

Promotion was on the lips of every fan from the time their team was demoted up to the time Maite attained the requirements of elevation. With two games in hand, Mufulira Wanderers had already secured a place in the top league. It came with sour ingredients, though!

They were topping the table with five points clear of second-placed Chambishi Black Burn and only needed a draw to qualify to premier ranks. However, in the first of their last three matches they were playing against Chambishi (in Chambishi) who were also determined to upset Maite’s plans in order to keep the contention red hot. So, when the draw was in sight for the two contenders in the goalless tussle, Chambishi fans started hurling harmful objects onto the pitch to frustrate the visitors. Three minutes before the final whistle, the referee succumbed to the pressure and had no option but to suspend the match.

Nevertheless, a few days later, FAZ looked into the matter and awarded Mufulira three goals and three points, according FIFA to rules. Thus, Maite qualified indisputably. The remaining two matched were just a formality. Still, they won one of them and finished the task with nine points clear of next-in-line Indeni who had overtaken Chambishi. Surely, there could be no better source of joy for Maite than ending the season with 68 points, 47 goals (conceding 12) and 18 clean sheets.

You would best understand the difference between promotion to the premier league and staying there if your team was elevated. Maite are now celebrating their promotion as a big achievement; something that not even Zesco, the 2018 champions, are enjoying.

Meanwhile, as Abena Milambo (their nick name) were championing division one, in the super league, teams like Buildcon, Red Arrows, Nkwazi, Lusaka Dynamos and Forest Rangers were stuck in mid-table as usual and with nothing exciting to tell. Zesco were also customarily topping the table and preparing to represent the nation in the CAF Champions League; the earlier version of which Wanderers were the first Zambian team to go to back in 1975.

So, playing division one football at times can be more exciting than the premier league. If fans of Brave Nchanga Rangers of Chingola are mourning their relegation to the lower division, they should instead take it as breather from the highly competitive premier league and enjoy more instances victory. Unlike their neighbors, Konkola Blades, who seem to have lost their way back to the higher league, Brave are expected back where they belong come 2020, hopefully with Maite-like success stories.

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