By Ndisi Songa
First published on 18th June 2011
I still miss those days when the Malawi National Team won the East and Central African Challenge Cup in 1978 at Kamuzu Stadium. The team went on to win the cup again in 1979 in Kenya. Oh! The team was just a force to reckon with.Those were the days when songs like ´Sina makosa´ and ´Shauri yako´ by Les Wanyika and Orchestra Super Mazembe respectively were hits of the moment.The football commentary was as lively. Those listening to the radio were as informed in every aspect because Pearson Chunga and Elias Kapangama were gems at their trade.The domestic teams battled for such trophies as the Kamuzu Cup, Press Cup and Chibuku Cup. The domestic league was strong.There was passion for the game. When we had no money for the game, we climbed the stadium fence.Outside BAT Ground, there was a tall tree we climbed to watch the match. Such was the genius of soccer fans. Then there was´ Nthawi ya malova.´ This was the period, no longer than five minutes, when those who did not have money to pay the gate fees, were allowed to watch the match.If you were a ball picker, popularly dubbed, Mabolera, you were assured of watching a free game.Kinnah ´Électric´ Phiri had immense scoring abilities. He had a lethal eye for the goal. Then Spy Msiska´s aerial prowess was second to none. Stock Dandize was called ´the Master of ball control.´ Jonathan Billie was amazing with his dribbling wizardly and magical turns and twists. It was beautiful to watch soccer in those days.While Jack ´ Africa´ Chamangwana, Harry ´Barbed´ Waya, Rogers Yasini and Reuben Malola dazzled crowds as they solidly stood in defense while Collins Thewe, Patrick Chikafa, Thom Kazembe and Michael Kaimfa also made significant contribution.The telling saves of Boniface Maganga and Denis Saidi were also a marvel to watch. They were determined not to let in goals. I was only a young boy but I remember the song: [A Malawi National Team kwezekani mbendera, kuti mupambane……. (literally meaning the Malawi National team should hoist the national flag high in order to win).] Barnett Gondwe was a freekick and cornerkick expert. It was a marvel to watch Ernest Mtawali and Kannock ´Bruno´ Munde. Then there were the likes of Jimmy Mphamba, Henry Chikunje and Patson Nyengo.This was the era when the National team was coached by Ted Powell, and then Danny Mac Lennan before our own Reuben Malola took over the reigns.The domestic league boasted of teams like Bata Bullets, Limbe Leaf Wanderers, Silver Strikers, CIVO, Berec Power Pack, Admarc Tigers, Red Lions, Hardware Stars, Malawi Railways, SUCOMA,MHC, Blantyre Print, Mitco, Produsack, Whitex United, B & C Dynamos,Tobacco Shooting Stars, Moneymen etc.That was the period of small teams like Satemwa, Minimini, Mwala wa Mthuzi,Chikuli Green Buffaloes etc.The Malawi Young Pioneer, ´Kayombe´ and the Police we present to ensure everybody behaved well.Folklore had it that goalkeeper John Botomani would have a knife on the pitch and this scared strikers.I still miss those days when Young Chimodzi and Girbert Chirwa would contain Beston Shambeshi and Derby Makinka respectively. We were also dazzled by goal keeping skills of Clement Mkwalulula, who was nick named Chimbalame, as he could jump high up in the air to catch the ball. I still remember the fierce long -range shots of Ricky Phuka, who was dubbed ´Mabomba´, due to those terrifying shots that scared many a goalkeeper.In those days, Lawrence ´Lule´ Waya was so elusive that defenders were always in trouble. He would ruthlessly weave through defenders. Lule was a thorn to defenders.Frank Sinalo puzzled us with his ball heading skills. And Clifton Msiya would run with the ball dribbling his opponents in the process. He was a man of pace and his shots were powerful.You will agree that Lovemore Chafunya had strength and that was why he was nicknamed ´Rambo.´ Dean Pinto, Dean Robelo, Ibra Mwase, Popote Chang´ono, Mac Dadly Chanansi, Zex Rajabu, Moses Majiga and Gerald ´Yellowman´ Phiri never let us down.´King´ Maloya Siliya, known for delaying tactics, when taking freekicks, was a menace to his opponents. At half time, The Malawi Police or The Malawi Army Band paraded on the pitch as they sang. We ate roasted groundnuts or chewed Dandy bubble gum or sipped freezes on the open stands. It was fun.The Malunga brothers, Kennedy and Holman, were a gifted duo and they were also handsome. They were known for sporting permed and curled hair and earrings. Kennedy was nicknamed, ´Senator.` He was a midfield genius while Holman was a maestro of a winger. Later, Kennedy went to Belgium, where he played for Cercle Brugge. We followed football events as they unfolded.We went to Kamuzu Stadium, Civo Stadium and Kamuzu Institute for Youth Stadium. Sometimes the games were at Escom Ground or BAT Ground even Lilongwe Community Ground. The atmosphere used to be electric when such games were played. The likes of Felix Nyirongo and his brother Rodgers, Mphatso Namwali and Andrew Nankwenya equally left marks on the soccer scene. After the game, we had to walk home. When we got home, it was dark. We ate nsima with ngumbi as relish. When the time struck 21: 10pm, it was Nthawi ya za Maseweroooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!There was Dickson ´Land Rover´ Mbetewa who was a real concrete in defence. Dambo Poya was also a marvel to watch considering the way he used to hit the ball. Then Chance Gondwe´s tricks when it came to taking free kicks, left many puzzled.I still remember the numble footedness of Ian Banda and James Makoloni, Mac Donald Singo and Joe Chitsime, Smart Kuyokwa and Robert ´ Khaki´ Phiri, Richard ´Tuwiche´ Mamberera and Austin Nyondo, Peter Amosi and Chilango Ndalama .Those were the days.Then we saw Siliati Maganga, a good player who was also endowed with good looks. Then there was Otis Mwausegha and Daniel Dzinkambani.We had funny football fanatics in Bob Akule and Dumbo Lemami.We had Sito Mfarinya. He scored to level the scores when Silver Strikers were at the verge of lifting the much coveted Kamuzu Cup when they faced ´Mighty´ Limbe Leaf Wanderers at Kamuzu Stadium. The game was replayed at Civo Stadium. Who won? It was not Silver.And Green Malunga and Nasimba were chief supporters.Peterkins Kayira and Peterkins Mkunga had so much precision when it came to kicking the ball. Andrew Ngwangwa was steady in goals. We also watched Vivian Damalekani and Alfred Manyozo when Wanderers played against Admarc Tigers. John ´Big Joe´ Dzimbiri will be remembered for his high and long goal kicks, which we called, goal to goal shots. Vividly, the goal that he conceded when Emmanuel Kunde of Cameroon scored from 40 metres, comes to my mind.When we went to the stadium, we were sure we could see Mabvuto Lungu displaying his immense skills in the midfield and watch Thom Milanzi score from penalty spots with much ease.Do not forget Godfrey Zimba, James Chimphepo and Francis Jimu. I also recall Franco Ndawa. Yes, we watched Frank Mtawali, who was also called Bullchaga. And Donnex Gondwe, George ´Amunamtape´ Waya, Gabriel Njerengo and Chite Malemia used to man goal posts.Of course, Cydric Nankhumwa,Fanello Munthali, Eugenior Fesani and Davious Wansambo were gifted in their way.Jones Nkhwazi, who was also called ´Speed link´, liked ´Tyson´ haircut. Silver´s Stain Chirwa was a marksman.