By Duncan Mlanjira
Most times, people deliver emotional eulogies to the departed on their funerals and in social media chats but one football enthusiast and former Mighty Be Forward Wanderers team manager, Limbani Magomero decided to revere his childhood idol and and one of Malawi greatest legend, Barnet Gondwe whilst the man is alive.
Magomero writes on Facebook: “I am yet to see a player who will mesmerise me like Barnet did. My bedroom wall was full of newspaper cuttings of him.
“I remember one day, as a little kid of 8-10 years, I saw him pass through Nkolokosa grocery shops. Without thinking about it, I left my friends and started following him like a private investigator.
“I walked behind him till just before Zingwangwa market when he got into a house by the roadside. I later learned that was his father’s house.
“I stood across the road, at the junction bordering Soche East and Zingwangwa. Waiting to have another glimpse of him.
“Hours later, he came out with a little boy who looked like him and about my age whom I later learnt was Chauncy Gondwe — the Hardware Stars star — and they headed towards Kudya Trading Centre.
“Again, I continued stalking him what followed was one of the best moments of my life — he just turned and said with a serious Tumbuka accent, ‘mphwanga tabwera kuno (young man, step over’).
“I did not know whether to celebrate, shiver or run. I moved slowly towards him. He grabbed my hand and asked what my name was. He asked again why I was following him. I told him the good reason.
“I was his supporter. To be truthful by then I supported Barnet, Jimmy Mphamba and Wanderers, in that order.
“They welcomed me and I joined them in the walk to Kudya. You can imagine how I wished my friends saw me with the then 17-year-old school boy international.
“It was shortlived because just as we reached Kudya, a Chilobwe-Ndirande via Red Cross bus had just arrived.
“He gave me 5 tambala and his brother 10 tambala (treasure then) and boarded the bus.
“That’s how I recollect my first-ever meeting with the nimble-footed Barnet Gondwe,” Magomero concluded.
To which football analyst, Charles Nyirenda responded: “Limbani, you are talking about a man who hit the ball harder than anybody I have ever known on a persistent basis in every match.
“Further, he was a marvellous passer of the ball at his club rivals and at national team [level] was buddies with the likes of Kinnah Phiri. A rare talent, he was. Barnet Gondwe, the Great!”
Macfarlen Mleme said: “Barnett made wonders and could score from a corner kick spot. l loved the guy.” While Ezekiel Jonazi Mkhanazi said his was very rare talent.
“He could have played in any legue on this planet earth. He was simply the best. I spoke with him on the phone last year — koma iwe Limbani Magomero, imagine at my age but still I couldn’t believe kuti ndayankhula ndi a Ngwazi a mpira.”
Hastings Chatsika recalls that Barnet’s young brother Chauncy Gondwe was also a marvel and when and when Chancy Vinny Gondwe came into prominence he decided to be using the middle name ‘Vinny’ in order for fans not to be confused.
“Barnet Gondwe was a marvel to watch. I still vividly remember the goal he scored against Zambia in the 1978 East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup (hosted by Malawi) through a 35-yarder volley and till this day I have the full match commentary ably covered by legendary MBC English language commentator Pearson Chunga and the Chichewa commentator Elias Kapangama spicing it up with half time analysis by Billson Itaye, Patrick Masala and Marcus Munthali.
“Legendary Zambian commentator Dennis Liwewe described him as a young man with an intelligent left foot.
“Barnet was also a dead-ball specialist — against Libya in the All African Games final, he scored directly from a corner kick. Though Malawi lost the game 1-2 Barnet was the toast of the day but sadly he limped out of the game after he twisted his foot when his boot got stuck in the artificial turf.
“Barnet kept the record for a long time as the only Malawian player to have scored against the legendary Liverpool and Zimbabwean great goalkeeper, Bruce David Grobbelaar. The second Malawian was Hendrix Banda.
“The goal Barnet scored against Bruce Grobbelaar was a spectacular free kick [that can be likened to David Beckham trademarks] which left the keeper rooted on his goal line as the ball flew past him and kissed the net.
“This goal nearly ruined Bruce’s chances of signing for Liverpool since the English scouts couldn’t believe that Bruce could be beaten directly from a free kick but analyzing the video of the game they concluded that Barnett’s free kick was spectacularly executed and no goalkeeper in the world would have saved it.
“Liverpool scouts were contemplating of giving Barnett trials but since they already had John Barnes [on same position] the idea didn’t materialize.
Chatsika quotes former Flames coach Ted Powell, as describing Barnett as a guy who was playing from his natural ability.
“The 1978 East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup remains one of the best games I have seen Malawi play with goals from Barnett 35-yard volley, Jonathan Billie’s spectacular free kick and the third by Kinnah Phiri from a Barnet Gondwe free kick.
“After the last minute winning goal, the whole stadium spontaneously started singing the song ‘Zibvute, zitani if aMalawi, tili pambuyo pa Kamuzu’.
Rodrick Randy Ndovi recalls how BAT Ground became the Mecca of football in Blantyre where most of the legends emerged.
“Those were good old days where we watched the most exciting league Malawi has ever had, the Premier League and that’s when Malawi had the best players ever.
“But sadly, that’s the period that South Africa destroyed our league because football clubs from there started [illegally poaching] Malawian players.
“Malawi was the only country in southern Africa who had the best players at that time and Barnett was the first player to go and play the South African league.
“As my memory of him, I still cherish carrying his kit bag for the great player for two days going for his training with Wanderers at Kamuzu upper stadium.
“He was staying in Chitawira and I was friends with his brother Luzu Gondwe. What a memory lane,guys!
Ian musyani said he loved the way Barnet used to torment his marker Tommy ‘Abulazi’ Mkandawire when playing against Bata Bullets, saying Abulazi always got a red card for continued fouling Barnet.
To which Hastings Chatsika responds: “Ian Musyani, Abulazi used to have hell with Barnet and so did goalkeeperDennis Saidi.
“In corroboration, you would overhear both of them saying in unison; ‘asatembenuke amaneyo (don’t let him turn’).
“[On his last legs], Bata Bullets’ cool and respected defender Charles ‘Italy’ Kagwa was forced to retire early because of the nutmegs and dummies from Barnet Gondwe.”
Kenneth Bowazi said: “He was out of this world. He used to push the ball and pace , push and pace before hitting it with such huge force and we all wondered where the energy came from. No wonder in South Africa they called him ‘Dynamite’.”