By Gracian Tiuze Lungu
The prestigious 2018 Airtel Top 8 Cup is expected to role out in just a fortnight as Fifteen million Malawi Kwacha is on the stake for the 2017 TNM Super League season’s top 8 teams to tussle out for this huge prize money.
Memories in most soccer fans are still fresh on how real football enjoyment was brought in different stadia where Airtel Top 8 games were played courtesy of Airtel Malawi, the real mobile smartphone network provider, as they showed how smart football cup should be organised and run.
Those who watched Airtel Top 8 games had to have an integration of activities including dancers, all time smiling beautiful girls clad in all participating teams’ replica jerseys who always spiced up the matches.
The enjoyment flourished not only to spectators who patronised these Airtel Top 8 games but also to the teams which were given MK1 million preparations money, let alone the players who were handsomely rewarded with a Fifty thousand Malawi kwacha for just being voted Man of the match in all the games that were played as well as Five hundred thousand kwachas for the Top goal scorer and the player of the tournament.
If this is not enough, one of the games that set a huge gate collections record was an Airtel Top 8 finale between Silver Strikers and Be-Forward Wanderers which grossed over Fifty four Million Malawi kwacha and the teams went home very delighted as they shared over Ten million Malawi kwacha each from the gate collections on that day.
A One hundred dollar question that Airtel Malawi may always ask football lovers is; If this is not going smart in football with the smartphone network, what else football fanatics may need?
However, this year’s Airtel Top 8 bounces back with first leg quarter final games scheduled on the first weekends of May.
This follows a draw conducted Thursday evening at Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe during a launch of this prestigious cup where all the participating teams (Be-Forward Wanderers (2017 loosing finalists), NMC Big Bullets, Silver Strikers (2017 Airtel Top 8 Champions), Civil Sporting Club, Blue Eagles, MAFCO, Moyale and Kamuzu Barracks) also received their Airtel Top 8 branded jerseys.
The draw, however, has seen Lilongwe giants Civil Sporting Club and Silver Strikers meeting in the quarter finals as Blue Eagles was drawn with MAFCO FC while Mzuzu based soldiers will play the Peoples team NMC Big Bullets and the 2016 FISD Challenge Cup finalists, Kamuzu Barracks and Be Forward Wanderers complete the quarter finals draw.
Reacting to the draw, defending champions Silver Strikers through its team manager Francis Songo conceded that playing against Civil Sporting Club will be a very decisive game considering that they have had played against them during the pre-season where the game ended in a stalemate.
However, Songo promised Silver Strikers supporters that the team will try it’s best to defend the cup.
Civil Sporting Club’s Vice Chairperson Owen Malijani said playing with Silver its always beyond football as there is always a fight for Lilongwe’s supremacy in football circles.
Malijawa added that his team will go flat out to outclass Silver as they are not in this competition just to attest how good Airtel services are but to stay on this smartphone network by grabbing the cup.
Airtel’s head of Airtel money Chriss Sukasuka challenged all football fans that this year’s tournament will go beyond that landmark they reached last year as they have lined up some new packages to both the teams in particular and supporters in general.
Sukasuka singled out the giving away of MK1 million to those who will be party to Airtel Top 8 proceedings.
James Mwenda who is the First Vice President of FAM warned all the teams of hooliganism in a bid to safeguard this prestigious cup which is themed “Where football lives” this year.
This year, this cup is expected to run from May to June with first and second leg fixtures scheduled to be played on 5th and 6th May as well as second leg games scheduled on 19th and 20th of May with semi finals to follow on June 9 and finals to take place in 23rd June 2018.
Silver Strikers are the defending champions who won the inaugural cup last year after beating Be Forward Wanderers 9-10 on post match penalties after the game ended 0-0 in the regulation time.