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2023 Season Review | The year Bullets conquered against all odds

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FCB Nyasa Big Bullets enjoyed a very successful 2023 season, winning a historic domestic quadruple for the first time in five decades.

Despite an early exit from the CAF Champions League at the hands of TP Mazembe, Kalisto Pasuwa’s men took their dominance to another level as they swept everything that was on the table in Malawi.

The Malawian giants began the 2023 season with a three-year sponsorship deal with the First Capital Bank worth K525 million.

It was on this night in March when our technical sponsors, Admiral were also unveiled alongside our trendy 2023 kits.

Next was our annual pre-season Bonanza that attracted Mozambican sides UD Songo and Ferroviaro de Nampula as well as Mighty Mukuru Wanderers for a three-day event at Kamuzu Stadium.

The hosts didn’t do well as they played three straight games without scoring a goal and lost 1-0 to UD Songo in the final match.

Bullets went on to sign Kenyan defenders Clyde Senaji and Collins Okumu as well as Nigerian forward Chinedu Okafor.

Pasuwa’s side kicked off the new season with the NBS Charity Shield fixture against rivals Wanderers at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.

The People’s Team kicked off the 2023 season with a 2-1 victory over Wanderers to win the Charity Shield for a fifth successive year. Photo by Kimpho Loka/Bullets Media.

Without key squad members Chimwemwe Idana and Babatunde Adepoju, who left the club at the end of the 2022 season, the newly assembled squad showed no remorse as they pounced on their rivals, beating them 2-1 to clinch the shield for the record sixth time.

This was the beginning of a successful season as Bullets demonstrated why they headed into the new season as champions of the TNM Super League and the FDH Bank Cup.

Bullets showed qualities with their squad depth ahead of the new season, which kicked off with a mouthwatering clash against Silver Strikers in the opening match league campaign. The two sides set the tone for the 2023 season in a thrilling encounter that ended 1-1.

Our next opponents were Mafco FC at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre. Pasuwa’s charges showed no mercy, hammering the visitors 4-0 before travelling to Lilongwe for another league outing against rookies, Extreme FC, at Civo Stadium and the tie ended 1-0 in favour of the champions.

For the next two away matches, Bullets struggled to get points as they played out 1-1 and goalless stalemates to Civil Service United and Kamuzu Barracks.

Unlike the previous season, which saw Maule winning more away games in the first round, Pasuwa’s men only got two wins in all the matches played away from home in the opening half of the season. The wins were registered over Bangwe All Stars and Extreme FC.

After beating Bangwe, Bullets travelled to Lilongwe for the Castel Challenge Cup launch against Silver at the BNS. The People’s Team lost 3-2. The result aside, it was a painful day as we lost midfielder Mike Mkwate to a horrific injury that would keep him out of action for the rest of the season.

Midfielder Mike Mkwate suffered a tibiofibular fracture that kept him out the entire season and continues to nurse following surgery. Photo by Kimpho Loka/Bullets Media.

After finishing the entire opening half of the previous season unbeaten, it was not the case this time as Bullets registered their first loss away to Chitipa United at Karonga Stadium.

Our final match of the first round saw us drawing at home against Mighty Tigers. Despite the result, Bullets finished top of the table after the end of the opening half.

The result meant Bullets dropped 15 points after registering six draws and one loss, finishing the first round with 30 points.

At that stage in the previous season, the champions had 41 points, eleven ahead of the second-placed Blue Eagles going into the final half of that term.

Pasuwa’s men were back in Capital City to continue their FDH Bank Cup campaign against Extreme FC at Civo.

Ephraim Kondowe came off the bench to grab a last-minute equaliser as Bullets defeated Extreme FC 4-2 on post-match penalties to reach the FDH Bank Cup semifinals. Photo by Kimpho Loka/Bullets Media.

The defending champions had to do it against all odds as a last-minute equaliser from Ephraim Kondowe took the match into penalties and Bullets triumphed to set up a semifinal showdown against Dedza Dynamos.

It was another thrashing as the visitors suffered a 5-1 beating and the home side advanced to the final of the competition to face Mafco FC.

Before the final, CAF Champions League football was on the cards for Bullets. They were drawn against Equatorial Guinea’s Dragon FC.

The People’s Team travelled to Malabo for the first leg and convincingly won 2-0 before completing the mission at home, beating their opponents 1-0 to advance to the second preliminary round.

TP Mazembe was the next opposition. Bullets lost the first leg at home 1-0 before suffering a 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Democratic Republic of Congo champions to exit the continental club competition.

Bullets bowed out of the CAF Champions League following a 4-0 defeat away and 5-0 on aggregate to TP Mazembe. Photo by Kimpho Loka/Bullets Media.

For the next few weeks, the quadruple winners were subjected to congested fixtures as they were competing in all the domestic competitions. Bullets were forced to play a match every three days and this saw the team suffering more injuries to their key players.

We had the TNM Super League, FDH Bank Cup, Castel Challenge Cup and the Airtel Top 8 fixtures to fulfil.

Travelling away from home also made the team play more games within the shortest period without proper recoveries.

Our next two home games were against Bangwe All Stars and Civil Service United in the league. Bullets collected all the points before heading to Lilongwe for the FDH Bank Cup final. Pasuwa’s men successfully retained the cup after beating Mafco 3-0.

Kalisto Pasuwa’s side defended the FDH Bank Cup following a 3-0 victory over MAFCO FC at the Bingu National Stadium. Photo by Kimpho Loka/Bullets Media.

The next three matches were against Civil in the Airtel Top 8 quarterfinal first leg encounter, and two league matches away to Ekwendeni Hammers and Moyale Barracks.

We beat Civil 2-0 before travelling up North, where we drew 1-1 with Ekwendeni Hammers before beating Moyale 3-1.

Chitipa United and Kamuzu Barracks were our visitors and we kept the winning run with two important victories to maintain our grip at the top of the summit.

But things turned unpleasant when we played four straight league games without a win, drawing 1-1 with Wanderers and Red Lions, losing 1-0 away to Dedza Dynamos and drawing 0-0 with Blue Eagles.

These four negative results brought Wanderers and Silver back into the title race. Had it been Pasuwa’s charges won against any of these four games, they would have wrapped up the title before the trip away to Karonga United.

But getting three points from the possible 12 made things very difficult for the defending champions as they were now in a must-win game against Karonga at Karonga Stadium, a venue where they always struggle to get points.

The champions returned home from the disappointing outings to concentrate on the Castel Challenge Cup fixture and eliminated non-league side Lipulumundu FC to advance to round 32 of the competition.

Bullets travelled back to Lilongwe to face Eagles in the semifinals of the Airtel Top 8 at the BNS where we walked away with a hard-earned 3-2 victory over the Area 30 police side to secure our place in the final.

A must-win game in Karonga followed and Pasuwa’s men delivered when it mattered the most as an early strike from Patrick Mwaungulu secured all the points to open a three-point lead at the top over Silver going into the final league game against the Central Bankers.

The league season came to an end on 3rd December at Kamuzu Stadium where Pasuwa and Pieter de Jongh’s sides played out to a 1-1 draw, bringing to an end an exciting league campaign that was decided on the final day when Bullets clinched their fifth league title in a row and a record 17th championship.

Kalisto Pasuwa and his side won the TNM Super League championship for the fifth season in a row. Photo by Kimpho Loka/Bullets Media.

Then, the Castel Challenge Cup campaign resumed with The People’s Team recording a 4-2 victory over Soche Socials to set up a round-of-16 encounter against Civil.

Bullets progressed to the last eight following a convincing 3-0 win over the Capital City side.

Our quarterfinal opponent was Ekwendeni Hammers and we booted the Northern Region visitors with a 4-0 margin to set up a semifinal showdown against our city neighbours, Wanderers.

The semifinal tie had to be decided on penalties after a 1-1 result in normal time. Bullets won 4-2 to advance to the final where Silver was the next opposition.

In the final, with MK50 million at stake, Bullets came from behind to take the game to penalties for the second time in a row. Just like in the semis, Maule triumphed, beating Silver 4-2 to win our first treble in 21 years.

The next target was a quadruple. Bullets were at Kamuzu Stadium against Mafco FC in the final match of the Airtel Top 8 Cup. Pasuwa’s men registered a 2-1 win over Prichard Mwansa’s charges to claim a quadruple for the first time since the early 70s.

The Malawi champions finished the incredible 2023 campaign with a 2-1 win over MAFCO to complete a historic quadruple. Photo by Kimpho Loka.

As the first team had an incredible season, things were different for our three other teams.

After winning the inaugural Africa Herbal Mix Under-19 Cup following a 1-0 beating of Wanderers Youth, the campaign did not go well for Bullets Youth in the FCB Under-19 Youth Championship as they won bronze after they lost to Griffin Youngsters in the semi-finals.

Our Women’s side failed to defend the regional FAM Women’s Championship as they surrendered the title to Ntopwa FC to finish second. But they can make amends when they resume the national phase in the coming weeks.

Bullets Reserves also failed to defend three of the titles they won in 2022. They were bronze medalists in the Nyasa Capital Finance Cup and were eliminated by Zingwangwa United in the quarter-finals of the ThumbsUp Southern Region Football League.

Enos Chatama will draw some positives in his newly assembled squad ready for the 2024 season.

Despite the other sides not doing well, overall, it was a very successful 2023 for the Bullets family as the first team swept every domestic silverware to become the Football Club of the Year as confirmed by the 2023 MBC Entertainers of the Year Awards in Lilongwe on 30 December.

We are looking forward to the forthcoming 2024 season!

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