By Duncan Mlanjira
Former Nyasa Big Bullets international star, Lawrence ‘Lule’ Waya says the most memorable highlights of his career was winning the Bronze Medal at All-African Games in Kenya against Cameroon in 1987 as well as winning the East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup against Zambia in Malawi in 1988.
The former legend had not been heard again on the local scene because he was in South Africa where he had been working as an auditor but now is back and currently based in Mzuzu where he intends to revitalize the youth development academy he had set up before he left.
In the match against Cameroon in Kenya Lule scored two goals in the 3-1 win.
The Flames also beat Zambia 3-1 in 1988 for the East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup.
Lule’s football career started when he was just 15 after playing for Kanjedza Primary School in the Mayors Trophy against Limbe Primary School, St Kizito Primary School and Mpingwe Primary School.
“Then Zingwangwa Primary School beat us in the final match but I was selected to represent the Southern Region schools football team and later on the Malawi national schools team,” he said.
Then former senior national team coach Ted Powell drafted in the striker when he was an 18-year-old. Powell was being assisted by Henry Moyo, Zorro Msiska and Alex Masanjala.
“My first match for the Flames was against Mozambique of which I entered as a substitute in the last 15 minutes of the game at Lilongwe Community Centre in Lilongwe. The game ended 0–0.
“I played alongside Kinna Phiri, Michael Kaimfa, Harry Waya, Young Chimodzi, Jack Chamangwana, Tom Kazembe, Stock Dandize, Jonathan Billie and Denis Saidi just to mention a few.”
Later, Lule was spotted by Al Jazira Football Club, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) side and a deal was secured.
“I went to play for them in the middle of the season and played 9 league games. I had a knee injury of which I was sent to Netherlands for surgery that went well.
“I stayed for a month as the league had ended. I was just working in the gym and later came back on holiday and was not allowed to go back due to the fact that I did not come to play for the national team during the time I was with Al Jazira.
“After that, we went and played in the East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup in Kenya in 1989 where I was spotted by Olympiakos of Turkey but the deal didn’t go through as I heard they were trying to contact me but they could not reach me.
“In 1993, I went to South Africa and played for Dynamos for one month of which I played 9 league games as trials and at the end of the league and I never went back due to some administrative reasons.”
After an illustrious career with Bullets, Lule joined Silver Strikers after his job demanded he be relocated Lilongwe, being tired of traveling to Blantyre to play games for Bullets, which in turn was costly for the team.
“I enjoyed playing for Silver but it was difficult when playing Bullets as it was the team I used to play for. But I always did my best to play well.”
He finally retired in 1997 and the former maestro, who at one time worked at Football Association of Malawi (FAM) where he parted ways in unsavory fashion, was in the recent past engaged by football governing to sharpen skills of the Flames strikers.
And he says he is back for good and he is all game to play any role in the country’s football if needed.
In an earlier interview, he had said he fondly reminisces ‘Bata Mkumadzulo’ spirit and wished the players and supporters could emulate it for this generation’s People’s Team.
‘Bata Mkumadzulo’ was when Big Bullets, then trending as Bata Bullets, were down by a goal or heading for a draw with the minutes ticking away, the Bullets fans did not give up but anticipated to carry the day despite all odds.
The ‘Bata Mkumadzulo’ spirit was the dangerous moment for the team’s opponents because the supporters would always rise up in unison whenever Bullets were on the onslaught — throwing everything into the game with verve no other team commanded.
“The fond memories I have playing for Bata Bullets were when we were called ‘Bata Mkumadzulo’. I played a lot of games of which we won matches in the dying minutes.
“And winning the league several times and cups of which I was also the scorer will always be treasured. I still hold such memories so dear to my life.
Lule says whenever he has an opportunity, he does take time to watch the current Big Bullets games.
“The team is still as great although I still feel there is still room to do greater. At the meantime they are a lot of formidable teams than before as they could be four or five teams, of which shows there is a lot of competition.
“Bullets’ style of play cannot be compared to ours. In our time, the standard of play was different, many players of today would have been in Division One or Two.
“Don’t get me wrong, this is how I feel. We have good players who can make our standard but if you can see the players of yesterday, even a substitute was very good.”
On his comments to inspire the current crop of players and the younger generation of the supporters, Lule says the player is supposed to have confidence, respect for the team colours he is wearing and not getting satisfied with their performance.
“Strive to do even better than the previous game. That’s what makes you to improve. Learn new tricks everyday from friends and other players in other leagues in Europe and everywhere — that’s self coaching.
“To the supporters, they need to live up to their name — supporters — to help the team in every way, morally and financially for them to get the required results.”
Legendary players that Lule played along with in Bullets include Kinnah Phiri, his brothers Harry and George Waya, Tommy Mkandawire, Mosted Sichinga, Dennis Saidi, Topsy Msuku, Damiano Malefula, Greyson Simika, Harvey Deleza, Peter Phiri, Adrian Phiri, John Nkata, Michael Kaimfa, Rogers Yasin, Peterkins Kayira, Maloya Siliya, Popote Chang’ono, Dino Robello, Ian Banda, Andrew Manda.
Others are George Banda, Richard Meja, Richard Mamberera, Mavuto Lungu, Chancy Gondwe, Patrick Mabedi, Gilbert Chirwa, Mphatso Namwali, Laurent Kamanga, Aaro Mazhopa, Acton Munthali, James Mandambwe, Levi Hara, Nelson George, Gibson Mpherembe, Mzee Josamu, Brian Maulidi, Chibisa Munthali, Mike Limpunga, Michael Mkuntha, Thom Kazembe, Mike Gladstone, Harry Kumwenda among many others.
Born on 25th May, 1963, Lule hails from Mphonde Village, Phalombe District and made over 100 appearances for the Flames, 7 of which were FIFA World Cup qualifiers and was part of the squad that uplifted for their first appearance of the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations.
On his comments on the standards of football, Lule says improvement would be measured by how the Flames will perform on the international scene.
He says having qualified for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations for the second time after 26 years in hibernation, the team should have maintained that trend up to now.
“And in between, they should have qualified for the FIFA World Cup. That would have measured if we are moving forward or not.
He said one of the contributing factors is lack of sponsorship for other teams which was supposed to be giving the sponsored teams Be Forward Wanderers, Nyasa Bullets, Silver Strikers and the MDF teams a good run for their money.
“If you see our fellow friends like Zambia and Zimbabwe, their leagues are now shown on SuperSport, which is an indication of improvement and also Kenya and Uganda leagues.
“So there is need for us to learn from our friends what they are doing to be where they are today.
“Our leaders in football are looking down on old players even legends like me by not inviting them to help. All they want is to see us struggle to gain our respect of which we earned long time ago.
“The only way was to get these people involved as much as possible than telling people that we are not interested. You look at our friends, they are trying to keep everyone who was in the game to be involved in football — that’s why they are progressing.”
If called to duty for Bullets in a technical or administrative role, would he accept? “That’s what I have been waiting for — to be called to help.”
He retired before Bullets were sponsored by Total and former President Bakili Muluzi.
“I can’t even remember how many goals I scored because I scored many great goals with my lethal left and right boots.
“I remember scoring great goals like the time we played against Silver Strikers which was composed of great pillars such Young Chimodzi, Francis Songo, Charles Malungo and in goals was the great late Ganizani ‘Cool Cat’ Masiye.”