We’re yet to see the first Malawian football superstar. We’re probably closer to it happening now than at any point in history, but we haven’t seen a Malawian national go on to be a major star in European football in the way that the best players from most other African nations have. That does not, however, mean that we’ve never seen a good Malawian player. Most of the best ones just never got the chance to show what they could do at a higher level than playing in their own country.
The Malawian league is low on the list of FIFA’s coefficients, and the national side doesn’t fare any better. Perhaps that’s why European teams don’t look to Malawians when they’re trying to find players to improve their squads. There’s no Malawian equivalent to Cristiano Ronaldo, for example. Ronaldo’s image has been used to sell everything from aftershave to UK Online Slots. By contrast, you could probably pay the transfer cost of a senior Malawian international player with a small online slots jackpot. You don’t need to be the face of a game on an online slots website to be a great footballer, though – you just need to be gifted with a ball at your feet. The players we’re about to look at all match that description.
These players may not be household names – but we believe they’re the best Malawian footballers of all time.
At the age of 26, John Banda is still young enough to become Malawi’s much-needed breakout star. He’s a gifted midfielder, and he’s prominent enough on the international scene for ESPN to believe it’s worth their time to create a digital profile of him. That’s not an honor that many Malawi players get, and so it suggests that someone somewhere is keeping an eye on his progress. The national football association was quick to recognize his potential, too – he was only eighteen years old when he was called up to represent his country for the first time, and has made over forty appearances for the Flames since then, scoring seven goals. At club level, he’s playing for Blue Eagles at the moment. If a big move is going to happen for him, it probably needs to happen soon, but we’re more hopeful of his prospects than almost any other current-generation Malawian player.
As he’s now retired, a big move will never happen for Peter Mponda – but it probably should have done. He was the captain of the Flames for many years at international level and racked up more than one hundred appearances for his country. An imposing central defender who knew how to put a tackle in and how to motivate his fellow players, Mbonda did move away from Africa during his career- but not to a highly regarded league. He spent a single season playing for the Ottawa Wizards in Canada between 2002 and 2003 before returning to the Bakili Bullets. He’d later travel across the continent playing for teams in South Africa and Zimbabwe before hanging up his boots in 2011. Mponda is still involved in the game and has been coaching the national team’s under-20 side since late 2019.
Like John Banda, Chimango Kayira is still in the prime of his career and could, therefore, potentially go on to play on a bigger stage than the one he’s currently afforded by Big Bullets in the domestic league. His previous trip out of Malawi only took him as far as Mozambique, where he lasted two seasons with Costa do Sol before returning home. Although there’s no doubting Kayira’s technical proficiency, his size may ultimately count against him when it comes to his prospects of reaching Europe. At only 1.65 meters tall, he’s likely to be considered too small to hold his own against some of the more physical players he would encounter in English, Italian, or Spanish football. As he’s arguably more gifted than Banda, that has to be considered a shame.
African goalkeepers do not have a good reputation, with Richard Kingson of Ghana being one of the very few to make it to a top European league. He played several games for Blackpool during the club’s single season in the English Premier League in 2010 and enjoyed the experience immensely. Nobody else has yet been so lucky. Simplex Nthala should arguably have been given a chance to try his own hand with a bigger club at some point in the past, but at 32, his window of opportunity is closing rapidly. He also hasn’t helped himself with some of his past conduct, which included a lengthy ban for assaulting a referee. That brought his international career to a crashing halt after only 20 caps, and his reputation has never recovered. Nthala is probably the best goalkeeper that Malawi has ever produced, but he shot himself in the foot before he ever got a chance to turn the ‘probably’ into ‘definitely.’
Tamika Mkandawire holds the distinction of having played professional football in England – although he had the slight advantage of growing up in the country after moving there as a three-year-old child. He was briefly on the books at West Bromwich Albion, but never made a first-team appearance and later moved on to Hereford United and Leyton Orient, with subsequent stops at London club Millwall and Shrewsbury Town. As both a midfielder and a defender, for the first ten years of the 21st century he was known as one of the better players in the country’s lower professional leagues. He even got the chance to play in the United States of America, ending his career as a 34-year-old with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2018. Strangely, he might be better known in England than he is in his home country. As he holds dual citizenship as a British citizen, he was considered ineligible to represent the country of his birth at international level, and so he never made a single appearance for the Flames. He might have become a great ambassador for Malawian football had he been allowed to wear the team’s colors. Now his career is over, it feels like a missed opportunity.
Five years from now, this list might look very different. Football is developing and constantly progressing in Malawi, and the gap in quality between the Flames and the more prominent African footballing nations is closing. One day soon, we’ll see a Malawian in the Premier League!Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :