The best father, the best friend, the best mentor; Tributes pour in for late late Saenda

Tribute from netball legendary player Peace Chawinga (left with late Saenda)

* Sadly missed but his life and achievements happily celebrated

* He was a person who valued other people’s input even in team selection

* What a great loss to the netball fraternity—Sports Minister

By Duncan Mlanjira

Following the death of iconic former national netball team coach, Griffin Saenda, current coach Peace Chawinga-Kalua — who is in South Africa with the Queens, said the former coach was “the best father, the best friend, the best mentor, the best advisor and the best coach God gave me”.

Late Saenda

Nicknamed Zagallo after the great football coach for the Brazil national football team, Mario Zagallo — who holds the world record for four FIFA World Cup titles — Chawinga-Kalua described Saenda as “not just a pillar but a king”.

Legendary Brazilian coach Zagallo

“He is beyond a legend — there is no word which can best  describe him. I will just pray the prayer he always asks us to pray when in situations like this. He would always say:

“‘God grant us the serenity to accept the things which we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference’.

“He was a father — a coach extraordinaire, a mentor, advisor. Rest thee well my dad, aka, Zagalo.”

1995 squad at the World Cup with Peace
seated second right coached by Saenda

She said she first connected with Saenda when she crossed over from MBC Radiowomen to Admarc Tigresses amd he had been instrumental behind her movement.

“He made sure I started studying coaching when I was still a player at Tiga. I have debutised him in Under-21 and I ended up being the head coach later on.

“I have worked under him even in senior team as a player and a coach as well.

“To me, he was more that a coach. “I will say what a father we had in him — always advising us when we went wrong to get the best of us.

Peace standing second right

“He never got tired of our mischiefs. I remember in one game when we were afraid he used to say, ‘what if God created the nose upside down — ‘imagine what will happen when rain comes’. 

“Before we could give an answer, he will always say ‘God has a reason for everything and whatever He does, He does it at a perfect time’.

“He was an encourager, one person I have known who didn’t hold a grudge with anyone,” Chawinga-Kalua said.

Henry Mereka

Malawi National Council of Sports acting executive director, Henry Mereka described Saenda as a father in Sports Council settings.

“He held several portfolio as head principal of Kamuzu Institute for Sports, before being moved to Blantyre Youth Centre as sports development officer for the South

“Through and through he has been a jack of all trades, been in sports development — coaching netball, tennis etc.

“I remember him for his advisory role he always assumed and always willing to help even not called for it.

“That’s no wonder he became chairperson of the staff welfare for the whole of Sports Council.

“Even when he started struggling through his health, he always there for us in a positive way.”

Mereka said 20 years back when he joined the service and coming straight from college, Saenda took him under his fold, guided him and others who just joined in a professional manner.

“I have learnt a lot on technical issues from how he handled sports development issues at regional level.

“He was outstanding in the whole Sports Council setting. He had the fighting spirit to achieve good results and guided Queens to be best in Africa and the world with his guidance.”

Mereka said this was why he was always recalled for national duties, even in retirement, to guide the Queens.

Former Sports Council Executive Secretary, George Jana said worked with late Saenda for more than 15 years and described him not not as just a work colleague but a friend as well.

George Jana

“He was always cheerful. He was a talented coach and although a lot of people knew him as the netball coach, he was also trained and was equally good in athletics, cycling and tennis, among many other sporting codes. He could coach football as well.

“Griffin was a hard worker with a spirit towards achieving the best out of any situation he involved himself in.

“He remains a man to be remembered for his tremendous input into the development and success of netball in Malawi having been within the first group that introduced serious netball practice in the country and the only coach to have achieved the number one rank in Africa for Malawi netball and number 5 in the world.

“He will be sadly missed but his life and achievements are happily celebrated.”

Khungekile Matiya

Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) president Khungekile Matiya said she got closer to Zagallo when she started playing in Escom Socials.

“He was the one coaching us. We called it Namagetsi before it matured enough to register into the league and became Escom Sisters, with him still as coach.

“I remember him as a very cool person, soft spoken, calm, not easily swayed, understanding, full of wisdom — simply put he knew the game of netball inside and out.

The glamorous team that is the Queens

“He could read the game well and make the necessary substitutions. He was very good at what he was doing. He was a very serious when it came to work. 

“He was someone who hated losing. He wanted the Queens to be in their top form all the time.

“From 2017 when I became NAM president, I started getting even closer to him. He was a person who valued other people’s input even in team selection. He could seek other people’s advice. 

“A good man, analibe chipongwe ndi munthu. He was a good man! May his soul rest in peace.”

Sports Minister Msungama

Sports Minister, Ulemu Msungama said he was deeply saddened with the passing on of Saenda, describing it as  a great loss to the netball fraternity.

“Mr. Saenda was one of the best coaches for the Malawi national netball team and “he made great contributions to the country’s netball. 

“We cannot talk about netball in Malawi without mentioning late coach Saenda’s name. The netball fraternity and, indeed, the whole country will miss his contributions.”

Msungama took cognizance that among other notable achievements, late Saenda guided the Malawi Queens to their first-ever, third finish at the Fast 5 World Netball Championship

“May his soul rest in peace!”

The Queens in action

Netball coach, Samuel Qabaniso Kanyenda said he first knew him in the 80s through a netball coaching course which was his first to attend at Kamuzu Institute for Sports in Lilongwe.

From there, Saenda roped him in into the national team and their best moment together was when they travelled together to New Zealand for Fast 5 tournament in 2016.

“We did very well and came out third in the whole world and made history,” he said. “We celebrated so much for the proud moment because together we were very close in technical matters

“In all the years I worked with him, we never crossed paths but when we differed he always was a listening partner to reach a common good compromise,” Kanyenda said.


Sports analyst Limbani Magomero said all players he pioneered are a success story in netball in the country and this is what the country should live to remember Saenda.

“Every team that he touched turned into gold. Malawi, a third world country competed with countries from the best economies but managed number 5 and stayed throughout the time he coached them.

“This could only be achieved by a great person — Griffin Saenda was not ordinary. Most, if not all the current greats in Malawi netball, are his products.

“May his soul Rest In Peace.”

Tribute to Zagallo

Former netball administrator Naylss Mita, said she was greatly shocked when she heard about Saenda’s death, saying netball has lost a great icon.

“Mr. Saenda has contributed a lot to netball in Malawi. Most of the netball icons today have gone under his tutelage.

“He is a legend in netball due to his contributions to the game. He shall be greatly missed.”

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