Malawi international football legend Gilbert Chirwa appointed head coach for FOMO FC

* Those that know me don’t doubt me — I aim to change the complexion of the team

* To plant playing mentality in the players and introduce a winning formula

By Petro Mkandawire, MANA & Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express

FOMO FC, who have been promoted into the 2024 TNM Super League season, on Tuesday signed Malawi international football legend Gilbert Chirwa as their head coach on a one-year contract after its former head coach Mapopa Msukwa’s contract ended after guilding the team into the Malawi’s elite league.

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Gilbert Chirwa, former Nyasa Big Bullets and Malawi Flames star defender, who has been involved in various coaching roles with his former club as well as the national team, told Malawi News Agency (MANA) that he was happy to take the team to the promised land of the TNM Super League though, he said, it would be a big challenge to him.

He has since advised the team’s officials to look for experienced players to mix with the current crop that worked hard to earn the promotion, saying: “Those that know me don’t doubt me — I aim to change the complexion of the team; to plant playing mentality in the players and introduce a winning formula.

“I am glad that FOMO FC has given me this chance to lead them in TNM Super League. lf we can work together, I believe, the team will have better performance.”

Gilbert, a holder of CAF class A license and replaces Msukwa who has a CAF C license — a disqualification from being head coach of a team in the TNM Super League — said FOMO fans should expect a backroom staff soon as the team is already in search of them.

CAF class A Licence holder

FOMO FC general secretary, Richard Khembo said the team considered several factors in signing the coach as almost three coaches applied for the job but opted for Gilbert Chirwa after panel assessment with the overseers.

“We are expecting a lot from the coach,” he said. “Our conversation with him went well and all he needs is our full support; we know he will deliver.

“We are ready to do everything that he tells us because he is in charge of knowing the team’s needs and wants for better results,” said Khembo.

The former Malawi national team player was with Dedza Dynamos as head coach before moving to Mulanje-based FOMO FC to prepare for the 2024 TNM Super League season that kicks off April 6 with an opener between 2023 champions, Nyasa Big Bullets against Lilongwe-based outfit, Silver Strikers in the NBS Bank Charity Shield on March 30.

Gilbert is no stranger at meeting the top sides in the TNM Super League such as Nyasa Big Bullets, Mighty Wanderers, Silver Strikers is philanthropist alongside other experienced teams such as his former club, Dedza Dynamos; Mighty Tigers; Karonga United; Chitipa United; Bangwe All Stars; Civil Service United; Moyale Barracks; Ekwenden Hammers; MAFCO FC and Kamuzu Barracks FC.

FOMO FC is a resounding story of success sorrounding the charitable organisation, Friends of Mulanje Orphans (FOMO), whose founder is philanthropist Mary Woodworth, who is mostly based in UK.

According to the Foundation’s website, FOMO was established in 2000 to aid orphans in Mulanje, whose seeds of the idea for its formation stemmed from “the many harrowing stories relayed back to Woodworth from her friends and relatives still living in her home village in Mulanje”.

During a visit early in 2000, says the website, she and her husband Keith were able to see and hear of the desperate plight of many of the local children.

Determined to make the idea of FOMO a reality, Mary Woodworth contacted relatives and friends who over the years had been helping many orphaned children and from such a small beginning, FOMO became a reality and aims to provide and enhance the health, education, food security, meet the basic human needs and develop the potential of all the needy and orphaned children of Mulanje.

“The sad reality is that there are too many children in need of help and too few local families that can afford to help,” says the website. “Though there are many high profile agencies within Malawi they seem unable to address the immediate, local, one to one help, that FOMO is committed to provide.

“From small beginnings FOMO has grown and now looks after many thousands of children through a network of 14 centres covering over 90 villages in Mulanje District.”

Inculcating conservation of the environment amongst young minds

FOMO is seen as a success by the children its takes care of, local committees and public officers — the DC, Traditional Chiefs, the Police, heath workers, social services etc) — “through working with the communities using the traditional values and structures that have served the population in what can only be describes as better time”.

The charity is managed by FOMO UK and the website says the UK office is run by a small board of trustees “whose main work is to raise funds and awareness of the children’s situation and that it is responsible for controlling funds, identifying and facilitating the needs of FOMO Mulanje”.

“FOMO Mulanje’s day to day activities are run by a small number of employees, project officer, accountant, playschool teacher, matron plus local volunteers, that help out with the general day to day functions, cooking, sport, gardening club, bee keeping, chickens, choir etc.

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“Each of the 14 centers has a locally elected volunteer committee who are responsible for the day to day running of their centre and they are also responsible for identifying and assessing children in need.

“The bridge between FOMO UK and FOMO Mulanje is mainly through our founder Mary, who is in a special position in that she understands Malawi, speaks the language, has a clear view of the injustices and knows how to motivate the local population, and generally is an inspiration and example to us all,” says the website.

FOMO FC was born after the success of the charity’s involvement in sports bonanzas and local league with over 240 teams taking part in U-12,  U-14 and U-17 football, netball and athletics in 2022 — with other activities being dance, songs, stories, drama, excursions and reading classes.

With Gilbert at the helm of FOMO FC, all eyes will be on this Malawi international football legend and Mulanje Park is certainly going to be packed for the home side, whose promotion into the TNM Super League was celebrated with a street car convoy parade.