Malawi’s legendary ‘Lule’ Waya is back on the pitch

There are not many people in the world who can lay claim to the title ‘living legend’, but Lawrence ‘Lule’ Waya is certainly one of them.

The football legend is back on the field of play to dazzle soccer pundits yet again with his shimmering football talent after spending 25 years in the wilderness, but this time not as dribbling star player and goal-scoring machine but as a manager.

One of the country’s celebrated and hugely gifted footballer of his generation, Waya who earned himself a reputation as ‘Teacher’ because of his exceptional  skill, flair and aptitude in the football park says he is now ready to take the troubled Malawi football team to another level if given a chance to take a managerial role.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Nyasa Times, the  former Bullets and international striker said he wants to return home permanently to offer his assistance to his country in a sport that he does not only love but has great passion for.

Waya: Malawi soccer legend

“I’m so passionate about football. It hurts me that as a country we seem not to be making enough progress now than we used to do decades ago. Something is not right and we need to fix it,” he said.

He added: “For me football is not a career, it as a calling and therefore I would love to help in taking Malawi’s dwindling football to another level. We need to develop new strategies because it looks like we are doing something wrong.”

 Passion

Lule said he has already written Football Association of Malawi (FAM) on his intention to be involved in soccer administration but complained that the soccer governing body has been so mute over the matter.

“I wrote FAM long time ago declaring my interest to help in youth soccer development but to date they have not said anything, so I don’t know if they want me to help or not. But because I have passion for football I would like to go ahead and establish youth teams starting from the north,” he said.

“I also want to set up my own football academy. Our football standards are going down not because we can’t produce quality players but because we don’t have grassroots structures in youth development,” he added.

The former football’s dribbling wizard, who quit active football in 1997 while starring for the bankers, Silver Strikers after joining them from (Bata) Bullets, a team he and his siblings, the late Harry, the late George and Mabvuto (Jigwe) all played for since childhood has been involved in youth football development in Polokwane, South Africa where he has been coaching under 12, 15, 17, 18, 19 20 and 21 teams for over 15 years.

Lule who was born on 25 May 1963 and hails from Mphonde Village in Phalombe District comes from a family that has contributed much to the country’s sports disciplines with his two brothers, Harry and George also starring for the national football team and his two sisters, Mary and Emmie playing for the national netball side is an accomplished football manager and holds UEFA ‘B’ Coaching Licence from England.

The Waya family has dominated on the scene as the most sporting family in the country seconded by the Green Malunga family who had the formidable national team footballing brothers, midfield maestro Kennedy Malunga and left nimble-footed forward the late Holman Malunga playing for the national team and the Nomads, Limbe Leaf Wanderers (Manoma) before their nephew Leonard ‘Lenzo’ Malunga made his mark with the Flames also as a midfielder. The Flamboyant late John Green Malunga was a goalminder for the Lali Lubani boys, Wanderers in his hey days.

The living legendary football kingpin, Waya who earned himself a reputation as one of the best strikers not only in Malawi but in the African continent capped for Malawi national team in more than one hundred games and scored more than 50 goals for his country and over 500 goals for the Bullets, a record no other player has broken including seven FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.

Waya also played for Malawi at the 1984 African Cup of nations  finals and alongside the late Clifton Msiya were not only a marvel to watch for his slick skills but he was also pain to great African footballers including Cameroon’s all time great defence pillar Emmanuel Kunde and Cameroon’s top goalie, Thomas Nkono was not spared the Lule’s magic as he was beaten black and blue by Malawi’s diminutive but hugely talented centre forward.

 ‘Politicking’

FAM could however not be drawn officially to confirm whether they received Lule’s request for his services but inside sources confided in Nyasa Times that there is too much ‘politicking’ at the soccer governing body.

Both FAM president Walter Nyamilandu-Manda and the association’s General secretary Sugzo Nyirenda were not immediately available as their phones went an unanswered.

“Lule seems to me as a perfect replacement for Kinna and his backroom staff. There is need for change if our football standards are to get better. But there is so much politicking at FAM and there are so many invisible hands that run the affairs of football the public eyes sees. It has been proven that Kinna and his lieutenants have failed why keep them, for what, for whose interest?” said an inside source.

Nyasa Times understands however that Lule was recalled back from his base in South Africa to take up the national team job by some top government officials but since he arrived in the country nothing has arrived and they soccer governing body has not communicated to him.

“The problem with our country is we love to honour people when they are dead,” said the former Silver Strikers and Bata Bullets and national team lethal striker Jones ‘Speedlink’ Nkhwazi, currently based in the UK.

Another soccer Legend, former Silver Strikers and national team goal keeper, UK based Chite Malema concurred with his former teammate, Nkhwazi saying the country must engage former international players in developing football at grassroots level.

He said: “Malawi has a lot of untapped and unplugged talent which needs to be unmasked and nurtured right from the grassroots level. We must start developing our boys as early as at the age seven as was the case in the past. Most of us rose through the ranks from such programmes,” said Malema who was discovered in Karonga at a tender age as a potential national team material.

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