By Robson Sharuko
They were formed just nine years ago, initially as community project which used the power of football to help impoverished kids living in one of Blantyre’s poorest and toughest ghettos, by a colourful Malawian character known as the ultimate boss of that steaming slum.
Today, in their debut season in the Malawian Super League, where Callisto Pasuwa’s Nyasa Big Bullets are the defending champions, Ntopwa FC have picked four points, in their first six league matches, and predictably find themselves rooted at the foot of the table.
It’s not something that has been giving their large-than-life owner, Isaac Jomo Osman, who moves around in flashy cars with personalised number plates bearing the name of his beloved ghetto “Ntopwa 1,’’ sleepless nights because, to him, just being there among the big boys is a remarkable success story.
After all, when he started this football project, the mission was to give the poor kids of his ghetto a chance to express themselves in football battles and, just a few years ago, their flagship side was their Under-14 team which made it all the way to the national finals in their age group.
But, there is something Ntopwa have done, which seven-time Zimbabwean champions Highlanders, have not done, so far, this season — win a league match.
Across the southern border in Mozambique, another club, Textil do Pungue, formed towards the end of World War II and based in the port city of Beira, whose football facilities were recently destroyed by the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, are back in the Mocambola after a four-year stint in the wilderness.
Textil do Pungue also find themselves stuck at the bottom of the Mozambican top-flight league, with just two points to their credit, after drawing two and losing three of their first five league matches on their return into the light cast by the glow of the elite company.
But, even as they struggle at the basement, there is something that Textil do Pungue have done, which the domestic Premiership’s oldest football club, Bosso, have not done, so far, this season — score more than two goals in the five matches they have played on their return to the Mocambola.
They also have an alibi and their fans can argue that, if they play the next three league matches and take their number of matches to eight, just like Bosso, they will probably get a win, or two, and take their points tally above the Bulawayo giants.
But, why bring in these two foreign clubs, you might ask?
Well, there is a reason we have picked the two clubs in Malawi and Mozambique.
The two countries, and Zimbabwe, are the only three mainland nations of the Southern African Development Community still sticking to the traditional March to November football season after the Zambians decided to use this year to migrate to the August to May calendar.
It’s an era where the Euro Club Index can now be used to rank football teams in the top divisions in all European countries, despite the teams playing in different leagues of contrasting strengths, and at the end of last month Barcelona were ranked the top team in Europe.
Manchester City were ranked second, Liverpool third, Bayern Munich fourth, Juventus fifth, Atletico Madrid sixth, Paris Saint-Germain seventh, Real Madrid eighth, Chelsea ninth and Tottenham in 10th place.
Of course, that is set to change, at the end of this month, after Liverpool sensationally knocked out Barcelona from the Champions League semi-finals and Spurs reached the first all-English final since Manchester United and Chelsea battled in Moscow in 2009.
And, this means we can also use the events in other leagues to discuss issues related to those in our stable and Highlanders, with five points, would find themselves in 43th position on the table featuring all the 50 teams in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique as of yesterday.
Only Desportivo Maputo (four points, 44th place); Bala de Pemba (four points, 45th place); Bulawayo Chiefs (four points, 46th place), Ntopwa (four points, 47th place); Bulawayo Chiefs (four points, 48th place); ENH Vilankova (three points, 49th place) and and Textil do Pungue (two points, 50th place). The Herald