Former star player Chiza Nyirongo arouses nostalgic memories of top class football of the past

Late Popote Chang’ono and late Saulosi Nyakanyaka up against Chiza (10)

* As he pays tribute to one great legends late Popote Chang’ono and Saulosi Nyakanyaka

* Rest in peace my elders, Popote and Saulosi. You taught me something in life — I am still trying

By Victor Singano Jnr, Correspondent

As he delved in his picture archives, former great player, Chiza Nyirongo came across one in action and decided to post it on Facebook with the caption: “This picture reminds me on the need to help someone if they need to achieve their goals.

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“When i joined the University of Malawi’s football team, a.k.a. UFC, I started playing against elders who encouraged me to be a great footballer. Late Popote Chang’ono and late Saulosi Nyakanyaka (in the picture) were there for me when I was in secondary school.”

“I always had football equipments because of these two good people,” he said. “When UFC played this game against Admarc Tigers at MDC Stadium, I was the architect of the only goal from here.

“My mesho (roommate), Grant Kankhulungo, with his fast legs was the finisher here! Thank you [journalist] Duncan Mlanjira for this picture! I am always emotional when I recall these moments!

“Rest in peace my elders — Popote and Saulosi, you taught me something in life. Am still trying.”

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After leaving UNIMA, where one of his accolades was winning the gold medal in the prestigious Confederation of Universities and Colleges of Southern Africa (CUCSA) Games, which Malawi ably hosted, Chiza joined one of the top clubs then, MDC United a.k.a the Soccer Saints.

He quickly picked up from where he left of playing for UFC that had great players such as Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president, Walter Nyamilandu, Stan Nkoloma, Alick Tahuna, Geddes, Hancock Ng’oma, Phillip Madinga and many others.

He was such a talented player such that Charles Ndalama commented: “I don’t know why you were not able to play in the national team — a broz, munkatha mpira (you were such skillful players).”

UFC of China’s years

Ucizi Mughogho responded to say it was probably because he concentrated so much on his academic pursuits than football— playing it as just a pastime.

Martin Kanjadza added credence by agreeing that “Chiza was so skillful with the ball. He was a darling to watch during all those years we played against Lilongwe Boys in the Mayor’s Trophy.  Anali export quality.”

And he also agree with Mughogho on the academic concentration, saying parents then scorned the idea of their kids to play Football when they were bright in class.

“Charles Ndalama, vuto linali makolo athu aja. Ankatikwapula akangodziwa kuti tinali kosewera mpira (our parents used to whip us whenever they learnt we were trying to play serious football).

“They only wanted to hear about school and secondary school selection.  Bwezi pano tili ma (we would have been) millionaires having retired from Man U and Chelsea etc 🤣🤣🤣

Kondwani Zulu joked: “Ginte (Grant Kankhulungo), mfana ochekera mpepu. Brake mpachulu” while journalist, Cliff Kawanga said he was  “privileged” to have watched Chiza and his UFC playing “so many times at Zomba Community Centre. I marveled Ginte play too — the days I miss.”

The great MDC United

Ian Nesta Mhura reminisced of “the good old days” when “weekends used to be blockbusters” because of the great array of stars football fans were afforded to watch.

“You guys played good soccer,” said Vitumbiko Nyirongo. “Since then the standards have been going down mpakana tafika kwa Marinica.”

Victor Malilo, who played alongside Chiza at MDC United said: “Mbuyanga umadoda osati masewera. Playing against you was hard. It was great when we played together at MDC”, while advising his former teammate that he should try and emulate the good that Pocha (Popote Chang’ono) did to him as in his memory.

Journalist Peter Makossah also attested when he said: “You were one of the toughest opponent I played against apart from Laurent Kamanga  and the late Dave Maleta. When I see Thiago Alcantara play, you come to my mind.”

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Makossah also paid tribute to Popote Chang’ono, saying he “was a very good man and when he and the late Euginio Fesani came to live in Area 25, they inspired a lot of us and taught me so many life lessons”.

Chiku Kalilombe, one of the students who were part of the organising committee for the CUCSA Games also said Chiza was such a star of a player but “football politics almost eroded his love for the game”.

“But it’s a love he can’t wish it away. The game still needs the likes of him in one role or other. Grant Kankhulungo already knows what I think of him and what joy he brought.

“My best moment was the CUCSA Games [in which UNIMA beat] South Africa twice — in the group stages and in the final when they thought they were going to exact revenge. Who can forget.”

Chiza Nyirongo (right) tussling for the ball with another great player Charles Malungo of Silver Strikers

During his stint at MDC United, Chiza played alongside fantastic players that the country’s football fans admired — such as Brian Malowe Ndau; Dave Banda; Gerald ‘Yellow Man’ Phiri; Lovemore Fazili; Lawrent Kamanga; McDonald ‘Nginde’ Mtetemera; Kachibowo Malunga; Clement Kafwawa; Chembekezo Zidana; Heston Munthali; and many others.

The disbanded team also produced other greats before Chiza, such Frank Pilato Sinalo, Clifton Msiya; Kingsley Maulidi; Davies Wansambo; Daniel Dzinkambani; John Big Joe Dzimbili; William Chidowola.

The Soccer Saints matched the standards of other top clubs that contributed stars for the national team such as Bata Bullets; Limbe Leaf Wanderers; Silver Strikers, Admarc Tigers, Civo United; Sucoma; Dwasco; Red Lions in the top tier as well as others from the lower division.

The venues where fans were treated to excellent talent were aplenty then — such as ESCOM Ground; MDC Stadium; BAT Ground; Civo Stadium; Chiwembe; Mzuzu Stadium while Kamuzu Stadium was reserved for the best matches — cup finals and international games.

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