By Duncan Mlanjira
Late Harry ‘Barbed’ Waya is one legend every older generation die hard Big Bullets supporter hold dear and one former great player, Acton Munthali says he too reveres this legend and that he was inspired by this great player right from his childhood.
“I really liked him in my childhood days,” he says. “All the time, I tried to emulate his style and I called myself ‘Harry Waya’ when playing street football with my friends in the mid 80s when I was at Zingwangwa Primary School.
“I was inspired by him in the 80s when he was at his peak. I remember the goal he scored against Zimbabwe at Kamuzu Stadium — he made his shot from very far, just a few metres from the centre line. He fired a thunderous shot that floated and landed at the far post.
“He played on the right back position but he was so good at overlapping and he had searching crosses all the time. He was a great player to have played for the great Bullets team of that time.
“I was later privileged to play alongside his brother, Lawrence ‘Lule’ Waya and George ‘Amunantapu’ Waya together with great players such as Chancy ‘Vinny’ Gondwe, Gilbert Chirwa, Mabvuto Lungu, Mzee Jossam, Lawrence Nnenula, Richard ‘Tuwiche’Mamberera, John Phiri, James Mandambwe, Patrick Mabedi, John Christopher Banda, Paul Mhango, Richard Meja, Nelson Meja and several others.
“It was a team full of cream of footballers, coached by Isaac Mhura and chaired by Sparks Jumbe. We had a great time,” he says.
He says he joined the senior Bata Bullets team in the 1992-1993 season having been with Bata Youth for just one season, in which he played alongside notable stars like John Christopher Banda, Kizito Phiri, Daudi Sanudi, Martin Nkhwali under coach Charles Kagwa.
He first joined BB youth towards the end of 1991/92 season as a product of Mphepo Zinayi sponsored by Mr Talemba of Mpemba.
“My most memorable event was scoring my first-ever goal for BB youth in my first-ever match as well as coming in from the bench with only 5 minutes to go at Sedi Ground against Sugar Babies.
“That was the winning goal that made us champions of the youth league and prompted me to promoted to the BB senior team in 1992/93 season.
“My first goal was against Silver Strikers in Lilongwe — I out jumped two pillars Young Chimodzi and Francis Songo during a corner kick and headed home a beauty that beat late Ganizani ‘Cool Cat’ Masiye in goals. We won 2-0.”
Munthali scored so many memorable goals from far with his lethal right foot and “I remember one Zimbabwe international defender whispering in my ear after I unleashed a long range short In Nairobi playing against them he saying: “my friend, your shot was whistling”.
“Another goal I fondly remember was against Civo United. I started a move by passing the ball to CJ Banda and CJ passed it to Lule, who set me up to smash a whoosh long range short into the net.
“I felt great to receive such a nice pass from Lule, who remarked ‘Wow, that was great’.”
Acton said they really enjoyed football, winning so many trophies including the Kamuzu Cup, the Press Cup, the 555 Trophy, the Chibuku Cup, the Super League — for many seasons and we could sweep all trophies in a season.
“We were a great team and we could beat teams at will. Fans used to call us Bata Nkumadzulo. I am glad to have played for this great team for more than 10 years.
“To the young and upcoming players for Bullets, my advice is to put God first in everything. Be disciplined and try not to be too pompous when you are playing well.
“Take advice from experienced senior players advice and respect them. Work hard and follow the right diet.
“If you see that performance is dropping, go back to basics and boost up and keep yourself in shape because this is a short term career.
Acton was first called up for national duty in 1995 against Cameroon but mostly for exposure whereby he trained alongside the likes of Young Chimodzi, Felix Nyirongo, Lawrence Waya, Holman Malunga, Mabvuto Lungu, Dan Dzinkambani, Gilbert Chirwa, Hendrix Banda, John Maduka just to mention a few.
“I was on top of the moon for this call up even if it was just to assist in training. In 1996, I made the grade in the national team playing in the midfield alongside the notables of Chauncy Gondwe, Ernest Mtawali, Wilfred Nyalugwe, Albert Mpinganjira, John Banda, Thom Milanzi, Bob Mpinganjira, Lawrence Waya, John Maduka, Steve Bakali, Charles Manda, Walter Nyamilandu, Rodrick Sambani, Manson Shaba Phiri, Laurent Kamanga, Rodrick Sambani, Lovemore Fazili, Jones Nkhwazi, Patrick Mabedi, Meke Mwase, Felix Nyirongo, Steve Gwetsa, Bothwell Kuwanda and Kenneth Kandulu.
“The match I cherish was against Bafana Bafana in the World Cup preliminaries watched by a massive crowd at Kamuzu Stadium.
“It was a game I will always remember, playing against the notables of John Moshoe, Doctor Khumalo, Lucas Radebe, Eric Tinkler, Linda Buthelezi, Sizwe Mountang, Phil Masinga, Andre Arendse in goals — it was a great South African team that had just won the Africa Cup of Nations.
The team was coached by late Reuben Malola with German Manfred Hoener as technical advisor and John Kaputa as team manager.
“In this game the starting lineup had Swadyck Sanudi in goals, Charles Manda, Patrick Mabedi, Walter Nyamilandu and Shaba Phiri in defence, myself, Wilfred Nyalugwe, Rodrick Sambani and CJ Banda in midfield while Sherry Msuku and Jones Nkhwazi were upfront.
“I have also played against many great African footballers such as the Zambian Malitoli brothers, Denis Lota, Mwape Miti and Kenyans Othienos, Odawa and others.
“I have played against Tanzania, Mauritius, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Eritrea, and several others.
“All that I owe for having played for Big Bullets. It’s a team I shall always hold very dear to my heart.”
But all good things always come to an end. He got injured in Botswana in 1997 during national duty for the Confederation of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup game where he tore his knee ligaments.
“I had to undergo an arthroscopy operation. From then on I was on and off at my club, Bata Bullets and in 2001 I decided to call it quits.
“I am currently based in the UK, with my family and I am just privately upgrading on coaching skills with the vision of helping only young ones one day in Malawi — to build the grassroots football.
“I would be happy to help the young ones rather, based on the long term plan of improving football.”