The Sunday Mail
Petros Kausiyo in Harare and Mabvuto Kambuwe in Lilongwe
LOVE him or hate him, there is something special about Kalisto Pasuwa’s evolving coaching career.
It keeps getting better and he has now created an aura of invincibility in Malawian football.
The trendsetting former Dynamos coach has blazed another trail.
Pasuwa recently sealed his fourth straight TNM Super League championship title and is now on the cusp of yet another milestone — Malawian football’s quadruple.
His all-conquering Nyasa Big Bullets side, who have already bagged the Charity Shield and FDH Bank Cup, are on course to retaining the Airtel Cup, having virtually put a foot into the semi-final via a 7-0 quarter-final, first-leg win last weekend.
Yet, when he arrived in Malawi to take over the Nyasa Big Bullets job, Pasuwa appeared to have ruffled some feathers by undertaking a revolution premised on introducing younger players and offloading older and seasoned campaigners.
He has since been rewarded for his efforts.
The beast that Nyasa Big Bullets has become has taken the team’s TNM league titles tally to a record 16.
A deeply religious man, the ex-Warriors and Young Warriors gaffer attributed his success to divine guidance.
“It’s God, my man, otherwise I cannot do it on my own,’’ Pasuwa told The Sunday Mail Sport.
He also lauded the club’s management for backing his youth revolution.
“The board and management were supportive from the onset.
“Nyasa Big Bullets is a big team with a winning culture, so people had fear of the unknown. It was a matter of ‘what ifs’, not that they were not supportive.
“The supporters, too, were behind us all the way and we thank them for believing in us.”
The 52-year-old coach, a member of the Dynamos side that made history by reaching the 1998 CAF Champions League final, said his charges have not had time to fully celebrate their latest league triumph, as they still have to conquer in the Airtel Cup.
“Last season, we won the Charity Shield, Top 8 and the league also. So far, we have won the Charity Shield, FDH Cup (biggest Cup in Malawi) and the league, so, I guess we have already won the treble and going for the fourth one, and that is where the focus is on before we can get time to celebrate,” he said.
Having now won eight championships with Dynamos and Nyasa Big Bullets since 2011, Pasuwa also took time to reflect on those moments, citing the 2014 (with DeMbare) and 2019 (With Nyasa) titles as the most memorable ones.
“The feeling is always the same when you win the championships, but I guess the first one is always the sweetest, as they say ‘first cut is the deepest’.
“The one that comes to mind will be the 2014 one against ZPC Kariba, when the trophy was being flown between Gwanzura and National Sports Stadium.
“In Malawi, it has to be the 2019 one, which was closely contested between us and our bitter rivals Wanderers.”
His Dynamos class of 2014 needed a 2-1 win over How Mine at the National Sports Stadium on the final day of the season to pip leaders ZPC Kariba for the championship.
Saul Chaminuka’s ZPC Kariba capitulated on that final day when falling to CAPS United at Gwanzura, where a victory by any margin would have handed them the title.
Although his bosses at Nyasa Big Bullets extended his contract to December 2024, it has not stopped Pasuwa’s success from attracting interest from clubs in Rwanda, Tanzania, Botswana and Zambia.
Even his former club Dynamos, who have somewhat lost their way since his departure, have not stopped trying to lure him back to Zimbabwe.
But, with the manner in which he has become a cult hero in Malawi, Pasuwa is not likely to be returning to DeMbare anytime soon.
His list of coaching successes also includes guiding the national Under-23 side to the 11th African Games (All-Africa Games) in Congo in 2015 and the home-grown Warriors to the CHAN competition in Rwanda a year later.
Pasuwa then led the Warriors to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
How latest championship was won
This season will no doubt be one to remember for the former Warriors mentor, as he won the title with 73 points, 10 points better than runners-up Lilongwe-based Blue Eagles.
Again, Bullets broke their own record of 2018, when they won the championship with 71 points.
Bullets were on course to win the league title without a loss until Mafco beat them 1-0 at Dedza Stadium, ending their 25-match unbeaten run.
In 30 matches the entire season, Bullets had an impressive home record, having won 12 matches and drawn three.
At home, Bullets drew 3-3 against rivals Mighty Mukuru Wanderers, Kamuzu Barracks (1-1) and Eagles (1-1).
On the road, they also collected more points than any other side, having won 10 matches, drawn four and lost one.
Pasuwa’s men were also the highest scoring team with 69 goals.
They conceded 21.
Yet, before the start of the season, the odds were stacked against Bullets after they offloaded 11 players, including veterans Chiukepo Msowoya, Chimango Kayira, Nelson Kanjunje, Zicco Mkanda and Sankhani Mkandawire.
Pasuwa then promoted some players such as Patrick Mwaungulu, Kesten Simbi, Stanley Biliati, Yankho Singo, Alick Lungu, goalkeeper Clever Mkungula and Blessings Mpokera from the reserve side.
The youth brigade did not disappoint either, with such players like Mwaungulu emerging as an integral part of the team.
He had nine goals and 20 assists.
Apart from the 2020/2021 season in which they won the title with 62 points, Bullets have been winning the championship with more than 70 points.
They attribute Covid-19 to the weird and winding 2020/2021 season, as there were many stoppages due to the pandemic.
Indeed, it was a season to forget for Malawi football and for Pasuwa, who was also sidelined by Covid-19.
Despite the setback, the gaffer led Bullets to their first-ever Airtel Top 8 Cup after beating Silver Strikers 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 stalemate in regulation time.
For all their domination on the domestic front, Bullets, by Pasuwa’s admission, need to up their game in the Champions League.
In 2019, they were eliminated by Norman Mapeza’s FC Platinum following an aggregate 3-2 defeat.
They then missed the 2020 competition due to Covid-19.
In 2021, Bullets exited the competition after losing 3-2 to South African Premiership AmaZulu.
The Malawi soccer kings were also handed another tough lesson this year when Tanzania’s Simba SC thrashed them 4-0 on aggregate after losing by identical 2-0 margins in both legs.
But it is their domestic success that has left the club’s chief administrator, Albert Chigoga, heaping praise on the mercurial coach.
“During his stint so far, he has brought sanity among the players and the coaching staff. His leadership inculcates a winning mentality in the team; he is a calm and very focused coach.
“His awareness of the game in general is top-notch, no wonder Bullets have continued to perform beyond everyone’s expectations. He is a risk taker. It sent shivers in our spine the day he recommended a radical start to the team rebuilding project, having offloaded most of the senior players,’’ Chigoga said.