Shakira’s honour in Zimbabwe cheers spirits of Malawians
By Robson Sharuko
Harare – The decision by a leading Zimbabwean newspaper to honour Malawian international midfielder Joseph “Shakira” Kamwendo as the best foreigner to grace the country’s Premiership, has brought a cheer to a country whose game has taken a battering of late.
The decision was part of the top-flight league’s Silver Jubilee celebrations and is seen as a consolation looking at the Flames finishing bottom of their 2017 Nations Cup qualifying group.
The chopping and changing of national team coaches in Malawi, has not inspired any confidence in the country’s senior football team. Malawi’s football governing body has been reeling from empty coffers which forced the country to initially withdraw from the 2018 CHAN and 2019 AFCON qualifiers before a change of heart. These kind of developments did nothing to brighten the mood.
In that blanket of gloom, anything that casts a ray of light – in the darkness triggered by the poor results on the field and challenges in the boardroom – provides a rare dosage of relief in a country desperate for a return to the good days, when the Flames qualified for the 1984 Nations Cup finals in Cote d’Ivoire.
The 1984 Flames’ side, which featured the likes of Young Chimodzi, Holman Malunga and Jack Chamangwana, held Nigeria – champions in 1980 – to a 2-2 draw, were unfortunate to go down 0-1 to a powerful Ghanaian side, which had won the Nations Cup title in 1978 and 1982, in the Ivorian city of Bouake.
More recently, the Flames thrashed Algeria 3-0 at the 2010 Nations Cup finals in Luanda with Russell Mwafulirwa, Elvis Kafoteka and Davi Banda on target.
There has been reason for some cheer, in Malawian football, in recent days after the authorities announced the Flames will, after all, take part in the 2019 CHAN and AFCON qualifiers.
The Football Association of Malawi, who recently engaged a Belgian coach to take charge of the Flames, revealed their campaign will be bankrolled by the government and world football governing body FIFA.
“Malawi government has come on board to support us. But we also had discussion with FIFA on the shortfall. I am pleased to announce that they (FIFA) will meet all travel and accommodation costs in our CHAN away games. I would say for the Madagascar trip FIFA is paying 60 to 70 percent of the expenses,” he told the Malawi Nation newspaper.
‘’It was on this basis that we were confident to bring in an expatriate coach knowing that he will not be idle because we were assured that we would get funding for the national team participation in the competitions.”
But it’s not the announcement that the Flames will be back in action that has cheered the spirits of the Malawian people when it comes to their football.
When Zimbabwe’s biggest daily newspaper, The Herald, last week named Flames’ captain Kamwendo as the best foreigner to grace the Zimbabwean Premiership, as part of the celebrations to mark the top-flight league’s Silver Jubilee this year, it made a lot of people in Malawi happy.
Kamwendo, the only foreigner to win the Soccer Star of the Year award, which is given to the outstanding player plying his trade in the Zimbabwean Premiership every year, was named by The Herald as their best foreigner to grace this country’s top-flight league in the past 25 years.
Although The Herald noted that Zambian midfield magician, Derby Mankinka, who was one of the players who perished off the coast of Gabon when a chartered military plane – which Chipolopolo were using for a trip to a World Cup game in Senegal – came down on April 27, 1993, was far better than Kamwendo, he could not make the list of the XI best foreign stars as he played in Zimbabwe just before the dawn of the Premiership.
“Derby Mankinka was the ultimate shooting star of the domestic Premiership, providing light in the blanket of fog which covered a football scene that was desperately crying out for a hero amid the turmoil of the top-flight league’s battle for independence from ZIFA at the turn of the ’90s,” The Herald noted.
‘’The talented Zambian midfielder played just eight games for Darryn T, but he made such a huge impression he forced his way onto the Soccer Stars of the Year calendar, but just as his legend grew and his appeal spread around the country, he was gone with his skills — clearly designed for a bigger stage — taking him to Europe.
“Mankinka arrived in Zimbabwe on the eve of a new era for domestic football when the top-flight league’s leaders were planning their divorce from ZIFA’s grasp, in a revolution that would culminate in the formation of the domestic Premiership, with the founding fathers of the new league, the late Morrison Sifelani and Chris Sibanda, preaching the gospel that clubs would reap huge benefits from this new dispensation.
“Mankinka was not the first foreign player to ply his trade in this country, but there are some who will say he was the best and that he was able to force his way onto the Soccer Stars of the Year calendar after playing just eight games was testimony of his quality. But, given he played just before the old Super League gave birth to the Premiership, the Zambian midfield maestro cannot be considered for selection as part of this newspaper’s celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of our top-flight league among the best XI foreigners who have illuminated the league.’’
That left the door open for Kamwendo, who was crowned Soccer Star of the Year in 2005, after playing a starring role as CAPS United defended their Premiership crown.
And that has brought a smile on the Malawians in the face of adversity.
“As Zimbabwe top-flight football league celebrates its Silver Jubilee, one of that country’s leading dailies, has named Malawian battle-hardened mifielder Joseph Kamwendo as the best foreign player,” the man widely regarded as Malawi’s best football writer, Garry Chirwa, wrote in the Nation.
And Kamwendo told the newspaper he was delighted by his crowning as the best foreigner to grace the Zimbabwe Premiership.
“It means a lot to me and it is a blessing. I went there as a nobody, but God gave me a lion’s heart to conquer. It will live in my heart forever and I dedicate it to my country, blessed be God’s love,” he said.
THE BEST FOREIGN ALL-STAR XI TO PLAY IN THE ZIMBABWE PREMIERSHIP IN THE PAST TWENTY FIVE YEARS
NUMBER ONE — JOSEPH KAMWENDO (MALAWI AND CAPS UNITED)
NUMBER TWO — WEBSTER CHIKABALA (ZAMBIA, DARRYN T AND MANGURA)
NUMBER THREE — IAN BAKALA (ZAMBIA AND CAPS UNITED)
NUMBER FOUR — LAUGHTER CHILEMBE (ZAMBIA AND CAPS UNITED)
NUMBER FIVE — ROBERT NG’AMBI (MALAWI AND MONOMOTAPA)
NUMBER SIX — DABWITSO NKHOMA (ZAMBIA, HIGHLANDERS AND MOTOR ACTION)
NUMBER SEVEN — FERDINAND MWACHINDALO (ZAMBIA, AMAZULU AND MASVINGO UTD)
NUMBER EIGHT — CLIVE MWALE (ZAMBIA, DYNAMOS, SHOOTING STARS, CAPS UNITED)
NUMBER NINE — CHARLES CHILUFYA (ZAMBIA AND HIGHLANDERS)
NUMBER TEN — KELVIN KAINDU (ZAMBIA AND HIGHLANDERS)
NUMBER ELEVEN — FRANCIS KASANDA (ZAMBIA AND DYNAMOS)