By Duncan Mlanjira
Profound tributes pour in for former Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) football commentator Elias Kapangama, who died on Friday morning at his house in Area 51 and will be buried on Saturday at his home village, Malomo in Ntchisi Dictrict.
Late Elias Kapangama is spoken in the same breath with that of the greatest moments of Malawi football together with his colleague, Pearson Chunga — who delivered football action on the pitch with so much precision that was enjoyed by all soccer loving fans of all ages across the country.
His very close colleague, Pearson Chunga — who spent over 12 years in the same commentary box — described late Elias Kapangama as a down to earth human being, who despite his seniority at MBC in other capacities, never brought his senior post to their personal relationship off the mike.
“On duty together, whether in Malawi or outside the country, we freely had fun together, very much like brothers,” Chunga said.
“I joined MBC in 1971 from Chancellor College after failing to continue with a BA Degree in the Arts after 2 years. I joined as a freelance sports presenter and producer.
“When Mr. Tony Kandiero was promoted, he drafted me into his place as English football commentator to team up with Elias Kapangama, who had been commentating for some time already.
“Neither of us joined MBC sorely as football commentators. He was in the Commercial Department of MBC which he later headed and after teaming up together — and as the years went on — we worked as hand-in-glove together. It was spontaneous.”
Chunga, who is now a preacher and a gospel teacher, said the two worked together for 12 years and he left Kapangama still commentating in 1984 when he resigned to start TransWorld Radio Malawi that rolled out in January 1985.
“As a colleague, I celebrate the excitement vibe he brought to radio commentary and the honesty with which he did his soccer coverage.
“For both of us, the highlight of our career is — without doubt — Malawi national football team winning and retaining the East and Central Africa Senior Soccer Challenge Cup in 1978 and 1979 respectively.
“We always talked about it and I shall always cherish the times I had with Elias throughout all the years in the same commentary box. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”
Chunga said he left MBC in response to a call to serve the Lord by starting TransWord Radio in Malawi and later relocated to Swaziland where he had been until recently when he returned back home.
“I am back to sweet home in Blantyre after missing out on so many exciting 26 years. I am working on my retirement plans to a quiet life of preaching, teaching the gospel and striving to be relevant in modern day Malawi,” he said.
Steve Liwewe Banda, who came immediately after these two giants in football commentary, said Kapangama will be greatly missed by those of his generation.
“There was only one radio then, MBC Radio. Elias Kapangama was a great communicator, a mentor and a father to those of us who came to be in close touch with.
“Elias and Pearson made a wonderful partnership. Their relationship as commentators was second to none and I was really inspired by both.
“As everyone else, I used to listen to their commentary while at primary and secondary schools. You could sometimes feel their touch of reality in their commentary.
“From Pearson, it was the clear cut articulation of the English language and from Elias, it was our local language. His Chichewa had a real native accent.
“When it was not Pearson and Elias available, it was Dennis Liwewe of Zambia that I turned to. I will miss him.”
Former president of Junior Football League Mike Mavuto Missi said he had the best privilege of meeting the great Elias Kapangama in person when playing at junior level.
“He happened to have watched us play and he came over and gave us a few tips on how we could succeed in our career.
“I remember we all went home swelling with pride that Elias Kapangama had said we were very good players.
“We trusted him because we felt some honesty in the way he delivered his message — I mean, a person of his caliber then couldn’t just approach some youngsters just to lie to them.”
Missi said he had met Kapangama one day in 2014 and suggested to him if he could do a commentary of an FMB final match just to inspire up-and-coming football commentators to learn a thing or two.
“Well, it never worked out. I now feel some remorse that maybe if he had that chance he would have been roped in to become a tutor of football commentators. We didn’t utilize his vast experience,” Missi said.
Award-winning journalist Mike Bango, the latter generation of commentators with Zodiak Broacasting Station, who sadly left the mike when he answered the call to represent people of his Kasungu North Constituency, said despite not meeting Kapangama in person, he feels he was a great man, full of knowledge of the game in those days and a patriot.
“I was scheduled to have an interview with him on how was football then and, of course, on him as a commentator but the meeting fell through,” he said.
“I was fascinated by his commentary of 1978. I listened to a recording and Elias saying ‘Malawi yapambana — chikho chikutsala ku Malawi’ when Malawi beat Zambia 3-2 with a last gasp winner from the free kick to win the East and Central Africa.
“Well, I wasn’t there then but listening to the recording of his commentary, alongside Pearson Chunga, really shows they enjoyed their commentary of the beautiful game.
“Listening to the two together (via recorded commentaries) it just gave me some ideas on how good they were and how fans enjoyed following the game across the country.”
Bango said it were Steve Liwewe and Patrick Simango who made him love the industry more, which date back when he was very young.
“When I watched village football I could do some commentary just for the fun of it and I continued to do so when I went to secondary school where I was spotted by a certain man, who later asked me to apply for the job at Zodiak,” he revealed.
MBC’s commentator Frank Kandu said Elias Kapangama and Pearson Chunga are the football voices that he used to listen to as a very young boy.
“Listening to Kapangama’s football commentary in Chichewa, l kept wondering how he knew names of all players for different teams and even those of visiting teams.
“This was part that created my interest in radio broadcasting,” he said. “Kapangama’s selection of Chichewa words to describe football action easily created mental imagery of action in my mind. He was good at his art.
“After Kapangama and Chunga, came the likes of commentators in the form of Steve Liwewe Banda and their skills and talents ignited further my interest in the profession.”
Another of MBC’s football commentator Patrick Simango said Kapangama was one of the finest football commentators in terms of bringing excitement to live commentaries as he had a unique style of bringing out the action to the masses who were glued to the radio.
“He took a step further of the generation of Franklin Longwe and Brightson Kalilani who were his predecessors.
“With Pearson Chunga, they were a formidable combination, inseparable twins who captivated the audiences with their touch of class commentaries.
“Pearson was simply a gem of a commentator, articulate in his command of the English language, I have not come across such a unique football commentator in Africa — one of the finest. Elias would just put the icing on the cake.
“I was mostly inspired largely by Pearson. My passion for the English commentary was so huge. Pearson had an admirable fluency of the Queens language.
“In those days, MBC had top notch English speakers, Franklin Longwe, George Mwansambo, Patrick Khoza, Dyson Mzumara, Brightson Kalilani, Benson Tembo and so many others and Pearson was part of this posse.
“Elias Kapangama was very imaginative and his Chichewa commentary was sweet music to the ear,” reminisced Simango.
A post of 2016 on Facebook by Ndisi Songa, shared by so many people then, said: “I still miss those days when the Malawi national team won the East and Central Africa Challenge Cup in 1978 at Kamuzu Stadium.
“The team went on to win the cup again in 1979 in Kenya. Oh! The team was just a force to reckon with.
“Those were the days when songs like ‘Sina makosa’ and ‘Shauri Yako’ by Les Wanyika and Orchestra Super Mazembe respectively were hits of the moment.
“The football commentary was as lively. Those listening to the radio were as informed in every aspect because Pearson Chunga and Elias Kapangama were gems at their trade.”
Bright Chikaonda said Pearson Chunga was impeccable in English and since he hadn’t mastered the Queen’s language then he expected Kapangama’s first narration to grasp every aspect of the game before kick off.
Some of the great radio personalities in the day of Kapangama include Davis Mussa (Ada DE ), Phillip Moya ‘Mwala’ Owen Maunde, Ndiche Mwalare, Wilson Mpakuku, Juma Mpakula, Bondera Nyirenda, Makachi Chirwa, Nyokase Madise, Joyce Ng’oma, Mercy Chipeta, Gladys Lipande, Samson Nkhono, Franklin Titani, Mercy Mjuweni, Fraser Kuchale, Kafumbi Njewa, Henry Chirwa, Lucius Chikuni, Chaipa Hiwa, James Chimera, Patrick Khoza just to mention a few.