In this second part of the Nyasa Times two-part series on Football Association of Malawi (FAM) presidential elections analysis, writer Patrick Zgambo Woyera gives FAM presidential aspirant Henry ‘Kaka’ Chibowa, his ghost stories, his henchmen, his nerve and his aspirations a stern examination. Wires again.
I suppose congratulations are only in order.
I have been informed on good authority that we are now all compelled to call him Dr. Henry Chibowa. I believe he earned it.
He may also be called the President of FAM if mother luck turns up for him again (as it has often done in the past and he swings the vote in Salima) this weekend against his long time strange bed-fellow and once comrade-in-arms in incumbent Mr.Walter Mcmillan Nyamilandu Manda.
It is no longer a locker room testosterone and ego contest. Theirs is tough love. A relationship strained by ego and aspiration in search of power in football. The contest on the race has always been less centred on football matters. Not until the charade of football sense that started two weeks ago.
It had to be that way. Mr. Nyamilandu and Dr. Chibowa long decided that the FAM presidency is more than just some title to take to a social club. They decided they are two Lions who have made up their minds that their long associations and shedding of football politics blood together has nothing to do with it at all. Only Lion is going to walk away with it.
Credit to both men, contrary to earlier popular belief, Kaka is giving Nyamilandu no quarter. He is dishing out as good as he gets.
Like Nyamilandu, I first knew Dr. Chibowa in his humble beginnings in football Administration at ACT Stars and the birth of Sulam. I doubt if he may remember me but our paths did cross and am sure I can write intelligently about Kaka.
I had seen him on a few occasions an old fashioned, uninspiring, clumsy and nervous player but not enough to have a go at him for his ability to play.
I hear he was an average player as a younger man from those who know him. There was never a ‘wow’ feeling about him as a player. He never really made the grade as the ultimate player on the field. When we spoke to his former coaches and teammates, most agreed he really wasn’t the most gifted. He was an average Joe who really compensated lack of bags of skill with guile, back breaking strength and sheer hardwork.
Only a few spoken to questioned or question his commitment. In the game. Never pulled out of a tackle on the field of play. His admirers suggest in life as well.
A teammate suggested to me that, Kaka once ridiculously tried to run off a sprained ankle.
Such is the commitment and persistence of his rather colourful personality.
Fair to say it appears Dr. Chibowa applied the same principals in life.
He has left footprints of grafting his way throughout football and his life.
Mother luck also often turns up for him.
His classmates in college speak of him as having started out in Laboratory Technology where he generally excelled in front of the microscope, flirting with vectors, pricking peoples fingers and drawing blood for screening.
Close friends say midlife crisis might have caught up with him earlier than many would have expected.
He bizarrely changed career and decided to become a bean counter by embarking on a career path in finance and administration.
He had his doubters but he grafted his way and excelled and ended up being a qualified finance professional with Press Corporation, later the GOLA Group and MACRA.
A couple years later he earned his MBA.
Somehow he was active in football as an administrator with the former Hardware Stars/Uniprint.
He was a rather colorful and flamboyant but effective team manager, often thinking outside the box. Not too technically gifted on football matters except for sarcasm in order to induce performance but brought a lot in organization, according to a retired Uniprint Stars sweeper.
“He is generally wordy but organized. He never really liked doing anything random but was obsessed with often having each objective achieve a particular result in general administration. This was generally his strong area. Technically, on the pitch am afraid his contributions were limited,” said the Stars former skipper.
Dr. Chibowa’s verbal diarrhea and lack of restrain with the media and naivety with driving home truths in his early football admin years created both his stars and his ghosts in Malawi football. Some times he is just too truthful for his on good.
His good command of the English language and his weakness for English idioms and creative words made him a darling for the local press in search of sound bites for the sports story. His deep deep accent of the ugly Nkhotakota Chichewa made it a little more interesting for cub reporters and the microphones.
This gave him a stage and leverage to position himself in Malawi football. He was lucky. The right man at the right place at the right time. The media curved the football man from the rough stone and brush talkative administrator. He compensated his lack of experience with panache, lack and the right words during what became a revolution of the country’s top league being run by clubs instead of FAM.
He was an integral part of SULOM’s birth.
Save for his weakness to utter too much, his and Sunduzwayo Madise’s minds were clearly the brightest minds and hope for football in Malawi. Dr. Chibowa rode his lack.
“Face it, he doesn’t keep friends too long in football. He may have had a glass of champagne when some other bright minds like his left or were forced out of football. Those he was close to. He is perhaps too competitive and sometimes it gets the better of him,” said a military close football ally in the Sulam days who admits Dr. Chibowa is not his cup of tea.
Dr. Chibowa is known to have been at daggers drawn with several power brokers at both Sulam and Nomads. He generally never took no prisoners.
For some irony, Dr. Chibowa, just like Mr. Nyamilandu, Kaka also had a moment of madness that the Malawi press is unlikely ever to forget. Its a FAM presidential thing I guess.
While Mr. Nyamilandu practically assaulted journalist, Thom Chiumia.
That was bad enough.
For Dr. Chibowa, many still recall at Escom Ground when the good doctor decided to aide his team from the bench. He continuously abused Bullets FC left back Afiki Sikelo, apparently trying to wind him up, hoping Sikelo loses his head and put in a bad shift. It worked. He got under Mr. Sikelo’s to the extent that Mr. Sikelo “made contact” with the good doctor at the final whistle.
Lets just say both the doctor and Mr. Sikelo somehow agreed they could do something more entertaining than reason or talk like gentlemen. Kutherana basi.
Chibowa’s Finest Hour
Perhaps Chibowa’s finest hour and mark of success is that his leadership at Sulom secured sponsorship for the Super League from Sulom at the most difficult time in Malawi’s football.
Sponsors were pulling out not only in competitions but also team sponsorships. Crowds were shrinking at stadia. Stadia were closing down. Teams disbanding.
Hooliganism had triumphed and the league had gone seasons without a sponsor.
Malawi football’s darkest hour.
Like Prince charming, Dr. Chibowa’s team secured a 3 season deal for Super League ragainst all odds and the league was restored.
9 out of 10. Thumbs Up.
Verbal diarrhea, questionable Judgment and Village operation
In his roles at both Sulam and Nomads, Dr. Chibowa made several calls that are disturbingly worrying should he take them to Chiwembe. Put his verbal diarrhea and love for photo opportunities aside, these were fundamental judgments that make observers question his ethos.
The first was that his leadership sold football’s soul when they allowed league sponsors monopolise image rights for clubs. Most agree those were desperate times calling for desperate measures but this football treason could have been corrected when Sulom negotiated a second phase of Super league sponsorship.
Some clubs are still being held up today. Did they consult the clubs before the deal? It’s the good doctor’s ghost and he should answer for it. The second Kaka black spot was his reasoning when Illovo and Civo were facing relegation and his team decided to bend a few rules and introduced playoffs in order to save them.
Whatever happened to competition and fairplay. You do not change rules when the game is at the end and what do lower leagues play for if not for promotion. It is totally disconnected to the spirit of the game. It defeated the whole purpose of a season and it was shocking how a man of his stature stood by that.
He looked like a second hand car salesman.
Raiply United paid the price and Dr. Chibowa should go to Chikangawa one of these days and make peace with the tree people and the forest who up to today await their team play in the top league.
The Doctor’s other ghost is the wordiness and disturbing tendency to start a row in an empty house. Remember BP Top 8? Nomads and Silver were tied on points and zero goal difference. Nomads had 9 and Silver 10. It was no rocket science but he arrogantly argued, against reasonable thinking, that Silver were “more porous” so Nomads had to go through.
Most people saw through him.
Clubs spoken to speak of Dr. Chibowa as a diplomat. Most say he is a little bit dodgy on policy but clear with his methods especially when he disagrees with you. Football power brokers speak of several run ins he has had at Sulam and wanderers.
“Let that suit and large spectacle frames not fool you. The man can be adamant and takes no prisoners on policy issues. Wrong or right, he sticks to it. To the bitter end. Ask Raiply United,” said a close pal in Blantyre this week.
Firm leadership? Maybe but critics still speak of a measure of arrogance and a whiff of love for swagger of the man.
The Forbiden Pact
The good doctor came out on launching his manifesto that he had a behind the scenes deal with Mr Nyamilandu that he pave way in the last election on promise that Dr. Chibowa runs this time. Mr Nyamilandu naturaly denies this. Perhaps the good doctor’s version of events is more logical and explains his bizarre candidature last time around.
But it begs serious questions. If he has a serious agenda and plan for Malawi football, why pull out over a personal boys locker room agreement? How many of such locker room pacts, which may not have anything to do with our game, will our football endure. Silly enough, Dr. Chibowa had the bloody cheek to come out in public about it. It was punching oneself in a street fight.
My serious concerns, lile most people I spoke with, is that both Mr. Nyamilandu and Dr, Chibowa’s campaigns see the same bowl weevils that mar the game involved. The same rotten ones. You know who. The usual suspects who advance not strategy of structured and sustained progress in the game but embrace football politics of anything goes. They, for years have sliced and diced the game’s progress in search of fortune, power and a place in the back pages. Allegedly. I hear.
Both these men have surrounded themselves with such bowl weevils. That evens out the contest.
However, the good doctor has done a worse job in picking his blue eyed boys (or is it the bowl weevils who anointed him?).With that, you can be excused for questioning the good doctor’s intentions or enthusiasm for the job. Did he want it or he was told “football wants you. The people want you” like in party politics.
One wonders if Dr. Chibowa is a willing candidate who has the stomach for it or that the Bowl weevils pushed buttons in him and jerked him to action.
Save for the main man himself, I have serious doubts whether the circus backing him has a serious plan, intentions and a sense of being clear.
A case in point was an embarrassing call demanding the resignation of FAM Executive allegedly by affiliates which was denied flatly.
Word on the street is that the good doctor has friends and backers in high places and that his not-so- pleasant bowl weevils are merely pushing through the anointed doctor but will not take part in advancing his otherwise good sketch of ideas the doctor wants to offer.
“He needs these characters around him because they will vote but if he goes through, he will be his own man. As always,” suggests a senior editor in one of the dailies.
His close friends speak of Chibowa’s presidency to be likely different from his overzealous and wordy Golf shirt wearing days at the stadium.
They envisage a dapper football politician in an Italian suit playing more behind the scenes. Less yadayada in the media and with a strong media and marketing team and strategy.
I really wish for that. But again, the Chinese say be careful what you wish for.
Chibowa’s darkest spot and deal breaker
I still have questions about the good doctor’s nomination. One very serious one.
I still want answers to the Sulom accounts nice story that led to the resignation of his committee and the bogus audit report. I, like most fair minded critics, cannot sweep that under the carpet. We did not conclude that matter as far as football is concerned. Are we not going to have a ‘not so Mwenelupembe’ like report out of Chiwembe?
Some of us hold on to things like that and are not satisfied simply by resignations, rolling heads, sugar coating and letting time heal the wounds. No.
We want an explanation.
It may be a form of spin but we want to hear that and not transfer any of that garbage to Chiwembe. No! no! never! We already have enough problems in Chiwembe with lost football equipment, lost match tickets etc.
The Sulom bogus accounts is a serious anomaly which elsewhere would have made him the unlikeliest candidate. An impossible duck to sell, overshadowing his brilliant record.
Strange things happen in Malawi football and the good and lucky doctor’s committee case seems dead and buried now. That, despite Mr. Nyamilandu’s earlier and colourful press conferences and tantrums demanding that Sulom resigns and talk of “getting to the bottom” of it all.
Not his fault at all that he is lucky we all forgot the matter and some chant out his name at Kamuzu stadium.
A good plan
Looking at the doctor’s manifesto, I can say he, like Nyamilandu’s is a good plan but in some major areas with no clear measurable objectives that are time bound that we could hold them accountable for.
Just like a political party manifesto.
Chibowa has been reactionary to Nyamilandu more than anything but not much it to separate the two.
Both plan are full of unnecessary detail of activities than a strategic direction for the overall game.
“Spare us the details. We wanted a direction rather than detail,” said a renowned Sports Writer this week.
True, they both sound like school boys running for a Bird Watching Club presidency.
Dr. Henry kaka Chibowa is a lucky man.
A grafter and full of guile. Nonetheless lucky. Extremely lucky.
Weeks ago, Nyamilandu seemed to be up against Dini Josiah. No Bookmakers would have taken bates for that.
The worst kept secret was then out. It was a seemingly reluctant Kaka up against Walter.
The almost guaranteed Nyamilandu (had most nominations)victory now looks like a contest. Kaka is having his say too.
Will mother luck turn up for him again.
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