Against overwhelming odds, the Nyasa Big Bullets Reserves 2022 squad went all the way to the final of the FDH Bank Cup.
Preventing the second-tier side from lifting the elite cup would only be their seniors, Nyasa Big Bullets’ first team.
Finishing as runners-up in the competition, was however an exceptional masterstroke of its own. Such an exploit attained extraordinarily by a team in the premier division was happening only for the second time in the history of Malawian football.
Twenty-five years back, Bullets Reserves themselves were the first team to do so. Then Bata Bullets Youth, popularly known as Banyamulenge, had gone through all the stages of the Press Cup only to lose 5-1 to Bata Bullets senior team.
Nonetheless, defeating three TNM Super League thoroughbreds consecutively since the round-of-32 before facing fellow premier division side in the semi-finals and the champions of Malawi football in the final gives a unique element to the run of the class of ‘22 in an elite competition like the FDH Bank Cup.
They might have completed a quadruple on the final day of their 2022 campaign. Doing so, they might have become the first-ever premier division side to do so in back-to-back seasons. That aside, squeezing their way through to the FDH Bank Cup final was quite something else.
We take a look at the players whose exploits made waves in the FDH Bank Cup; a national competition deemed by many to belong to the elite clubs only.
Rahaman John (Goalkeeper)
Saved a penalty and had the guts to take the decisive spot kick to score the winning goal. He ensured that the young Bullets were through to the round-of-16 by stunning Mighty Waka-Waka Tigers 3-4 on post-match penalties.
Out of his six appearances in the cup competition, he managed to register three clean sheets
Yamikani Mologeni (Defender)
With the captain’s band on his arm, the youthful right wingback led the squad with exemplary performances. He was the Man of the Match when our youngsters upset the 2022 TNM Super League runners-up Blue Eagles with a 2-1 triumph at the Kamuzu Stadium. The previous year, he had missed the decisive penalty in the round-of-32 against our first team, but he bounced back to shine throughout the 2023 campaign.
Chikumbutso Salima (Forward)
He finished the competition as Bullets Reserves’ leading top goal scorer with three goals. Only Babatunde Adepoju, from our senior team, scored more goals (five) in the competition than the 20-year-old wing forward. At the end of the just-ended campaign, he was voted Bullets Reserves’ Player of the Season by his teammates. His output in the competition simply illuminated his bright talent.
Chimwemwe Yassin (Midfielder)
The young creative midfielder was the only member of the 2022 squad who had felt the pain of losing to Blue Eagles, Moyale Barracks and the Bullets main team in previous elite cup competitions. The young Bullets number 10 had a Man of the Match performance when Bullets Reserves stunned Mighty Tigers to break the hoodoo against the TNM Super League team.
Chrispin Mapemba (Forward)
Largely in this cup competition, he was utilized by Enos Chatama as a super substitute. In all the games leading up to the final, our junior sides coach only made a single second-half change per game and the boy coming in always to stir it up was Mapemba, who was only having his debut season with the young Maule. He finished the competition with a single goal which he scored against Ntaja United in the preliminary round but proved to be massive for our reserves in the rest of the cup games.
Emmanuel Saviel (Forward)
Although he scored less in the FDH Bank Cup than Salima, Saviel, who finished the season campaign as Bullets Reserves’ top goal scorer in all competitions, produced eye-catching performances in the six FDH Bank Cup games he played for the reserves. Against Red Lions, another Super League side, he won the Man of the Match award.
Felix Demakude (Midfielder)
Bubbling with maturity in his third season at The People’s Team, the central midfielder proved to be the cog in the giant-slaying Bullets Reserves 2022-2023 squad. With great reliability, he protected the back four quite amazingly. He missed no single game for the defiant young Bullets in the FDH Bank Cup competition.
Lyton Chinong’one (Midfielder)
Mostly he will be remembered for grabbing the winner when our youngsters stunned Blue Eagles 2-1 in the quarter-final of the competition at the Kamuzu Stadium. The former Griffin Young Stars took part in all the seven matches Bullets Reserves played in the cup.
Happy Mphepo (Defender)
At 17, Mphepo was the youngest player in this history-making squad. The centre-back enjoyed a great experience with outstanding performances against top marksmen in the top-flight league. A graduate from our youth side (U20), he took part in all the matches Bullets Reserves played in the FDH Bank Cup competition and scored the 1-1 equalizer before half-time against Kalisto Pasuwa’s senior team, before the youngsters succumbed to a 1-3 loss in the final.
Andrew Lameck (Defender)
Together with Mphepo in central defence, Lameck formed almost an impenetrable backline against big teams in the 2022 season. The junior Flames player did not miss a single game for young Maule as he came solid against the opponents.
Wongani Kaponya (Forward)
Kaponya joined Bullets Reserves soon after winning the 2021 Blantyre U-20 First Capital Bank League with Maggie Chombo Academy. The young forward scored our equalizer in the quarter-finals of the competition to inspire a momentous 2-1 comeback win over Blue Eagles.
Macray Chiwaya (Midfielder)
A cousin to the Nyasa Big Bullets first team vice-captain, Precious Sambani, Macray missed only three of the seven matches Bullets Reserves played in the 2022 FDH Bank Cup competition. The central attacking midfielder was the obvious substitute whenever Chatama needed different balance and ideas in his engine room.
Franklin Titani (Forward)
The wing forward had been there when the team could not break the misfortune against TNM Super League teams. In this record-breaking campaign, the skilful winger took part in Red Lions and Mighty Tigers matches, which we won with clean sheets
Aaron Chilipa (Defender)
The left-back was part of our solid defence down the left-hand side. Joining Bullets Reserves in the 2022 season from The Boys, Chilipa was involved in five of the seven matches our youngsters played in the FDH Bank Cup competition including the final.
Chifundo Sapuwa (Defender)
He was the preferred left-back for Chatama in the preliminary round, unfortunately, he picked up a knee injury in the round-of-32 tie against Tigers at Mpira Stadium and took no further part in the national competition.
What next for them
After playing what was a prolonged season, most of these youngsters are still in the books of the all-conquering Nyasa Big Bullets Reserves side. They are now into their third week of the off-season break and at the return of the new season, the majority of these players are most likely to remain with Chatama in the 2023 campaign.
Nonetheless, the young champions, who won the 2022 Powertex Cup, Aubrey Dimba Trophy, Nyasa Capital Finance Cup and the ThumbsUp Southern Region Football League, have over the past seasons proven to be a massive feeder of talent to the Nyasa Big Bullets senior team and other Super League teams. With the spirited performances, they put up against big teams last season, loans, sales, and promotions of these youngsters cannot be ruled out.
Whatever will be, will be for these youngsters. One thing is for sure the history they wrote in the FDH Bank Cup will remain in their memory lane with noble touch. The fans will never forget them and football will forever remember them. They did not shirk from fighting the Goliaths of the local game and stunned the fans with their sheer audacity and classiness. They will live to be remembered forever for they dared.