Kamuzu and football development

* Politics aside, Kamuzu laid a solid foundation for football development in Malawi

* During his administration, Malawi football recorded some significant progress

Analysis by David Kanyenda

This weekend, the national imagination has centred around the figure of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda whose name is inseparable from Malawi’s history.

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General consensus derived from multiple historical sources reveal that Kamuzu was a deeply complex character with several strengths and weaknesses. Let me, however, focus on football only.

Kamuzu himself watched live football only once a year on 6th July — our Independence Day — when Government unfailingly invited a foreign team to play 3 friendlies with Malawi on 6th, 8th & 10 July.

In those CoVID-19 free days, Kamuzu personally shook hands with all players and technical staff for both Malawi and the visiting team.

International football

Malawi became a member of the international football community during Kamuzu’s tenure joining FIFA, CAF and CECAFA thus paving way to participation in organized football.

Malawi has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup todate but in 1984 made her maiden appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Côte d’Ivoire in a tournament that involved only 8 nations. Clifton Msiya’s solo goal against Nigeria was voted the best of the tournament.

Post-Kamuzu era, Malawi has qualified twice more for expanded formats of AFCON in 2010 in Angola and the Cameroun 2021 finals comprising 16 and 24 teams respectively.

The past generation of the Flames

All Africa Games 1987

Malawi had qualified as a Zone VI representative edging Zambia 3-3  on away goals rule.

At the games, the Flames were minnows in a group that comprised Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt and Senegal. At the material time, the tournament was played by senior players and was therefore an equivalent of AFCON with only 8 participant nations across Africa.

But after losing the opening match 0-1 to Côte d’Ivoire, the Flames roared back beating Senegal 2-0 before stunning eventual champions Egypt 2-1 to book a semi-final berth against hosts Kenya. Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire were eliminated — is this possible today?

Unfortunately, the Flames lost on post match penalties 3-4 against hosts Kenya after a one-all draw in regulation time. But they weren’t finished yet as they outclassed Cameroon 3-1 to claim the Bronze medal.

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Regional tournaments

In 1975, Malawi made her debut appearance at the Council for East & Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) Challenge Cup in Zambia losing the final 1-2 to Kenya on post match penalties.

In 1978, Malawi hosted and won her maiden CECAFA Challenge Cup beating neighbours Zambia 3-2 at Kamuzu Stadium and won it back to back, edging hosts Kenya with another 3-2 victory the following year.

Kamuzu posing with the Flames after clinching the 1978 CECAFA Challenge Cup

Zambia, however, denied Malawi a 3rd CECAFA triumph overcoming Malawi 3-0 on post match penalties in Uganda in 1984.

Malawi hosted the CECAFA tournament for the second time in 1988 and beat Zambia 3-1 during extra time in the final to win the gong for the 3rd and last time.

However, history would not repeat itself as the Flames lost the 1989 final to Uganda on penalties in Kenya.

In total, Malawi reached the final match of the CECAFA on 6 occasions — winning thrice and losing in as many times. On both occasions we hosted the tournament, we were the champions.

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CECAFA Club Championship

No Malawian club ever won the gong but national champions Admarc Tigers appeared in the final of 1983 in which they lost 1-2 to AFC Leopards of Kenya.

Mighty Wanderers, however had earlier qualified for the 1981 final in Kenya by beating Simba of Tanzania 1-0. However, they were disqualified and played the Bronze medal match winning 2-0 against Kabwe Warriors of Zambia.

Malawi also hosted the 1980 CECAFA Club Championships but national champions Mighty Wanderers were eliminated in the semis by Gor Mahia of Kenya on penalties before losing the Bronze medal match to Green Buffalos of Zambia 1-3.

Local club football

The present version of the Super League was inaugurated in 1986 as a national championship. Previously, teams played regional football in the North, Central and Southern regions.

Top teams in the regions at the end of the season faced each other in a mini tournament inorder to identify a national champion who would then represent Malawi at the CECAFA Club Championships.

Cup tournaments

Kamuzu himself sponsored the most prestigious national cup tourney from around 1974 till 1995/6 called the Kamuzu Cup of which Uniprint Stars were the last winners — beating Mighty Wanderers at Civo Stadium through a Richard Sogoja’s golden goal.

Bullets won the most Kamuzu Cups. But other winners included less fancied and defunct teams such as Sucoma, Hardware and MITCO.

By the time Kamuzu left office in 1994, there were 4 local club tournaments played in this order:

1) Kamuzu Cup (had priority then);

2) 555 BAT Sportsmans Trophy;

3) Chibuku Cup; and

4) Press Cup.

A packed Kamuzu Stadium on a derby day

In those days, the Kamuzu Stadium was reserved for international games or knock out cup games and Blantyre derby games. Regular league or social football games could never be played at a pristine Kamuzu Stadium pitch.

School sports

Malawi also played in international tournament s involving school players. Locally, the Mayor’s Trophy was the most prestigious tournament for primary schools in all the 3 cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu as well as the Municipality of Zomba.

Later, the winners would play an inter-city championship to identify the national winner.

In 1989/90, my primary school St. Pius Boys won the tournament beating Ndirande 1-0 at Kamuzu Stadium. Patrick Mabedi was in our school team and played the final.

Under-23 coach Patrick Mabedi

Another Patrick responding to the surname Maliro also played in Mayor’s Trophy for my last primary school — Tsokamkanansi L.E.A. Put simply, Mayor’s Trophy provided a platform to showcase raw talent.

Another tournament was the Consolidated Textiles Trophy, which had 2 tiers, one for Under-15s and Under-19s — believe you me, 18-year-olds were still expected to be in primary school.

There were also zonal tournaments for Under-12s which yours truly auditioned for without much success.

At secondary school, it was the Malawi Book Service (MBS) Trophy that took centre stage as a national championship.

Even at tertiary level, UNIMA had and probably still have the Chancellor’s Trophy introduced by Kamuzu — UNIMA ‘Olympic’ Games.

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Football sponsorship

All these tournaments enjoyed substantial financial support from the corporate world and parastatals most of whom also supported a club in one of the 5 football divisions that prevailed at the material time.

We had the Super League, the Premier League, the Regional Divisions 1, 2 & 3 as well as the Youth League, who played their games in the morning from 10am.

Nowadays, sponsorship has dwindled leading to the demise of clubs at an alarming rate thus diluting club competition.

Conclusion

Politics aside, Kamuzu laid a solid foundation for football development in Malawi. During his administration, Malawi football recorded some significant progress.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kanyenda is a lawyer and is well renowned because of his involvement in football. He served as general secretary for Mighty Wanderers (2011-2014); is a FIFA certified football lawyer and also currently a member of FAM Player Status Committee