Veterans motivated with support, beat Bullets FC

Retired Malawian football players say they are inspired with the support given to them by the general public since announcing the formation of an interim committee of ex-Flames players.

Some footballers who played in the country’s national team and the top flight Super League came together a few weeks ago and launched a body whose main agenda is to assist former stars who are currently struggling to make ends meet.

The idea was hatched by three former Malawi national team stars, midfielders Sherry Msuku MacDonald Yobe and defender Ojukwu Malunga. The three also played together at Mighty Wanderers FC in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Thrilled

Speaking with Nyasa Times over the weekend after they beat struggling Super League side, Bullets FC 1-0 at ESCOM Ground, Malunga  said they were thrilled with the support Malawians, particularly soccer lovers, have shown to them since they came public about their plan.

“It is something we never expected, we have had tremendous support from the public and we believe the association will grow bigger and make a difference in the lives of former players who are currently stressed with life,” said Malunga who was well known for his long thrown ins.

In his remarks, Msuku said they were particularly happy that despite hanging their boots, some for over five years, spectators appreciated their skills because they are still intact as demonstrated during the game.

“Let me also thank the spectators for coming in such a large number to support our cause. We never thought patronage would be this big when we were planning for this game,” said the former Wanderers and Flames’ holding midfielder.

The now abandoned ESCOM ground was filled to capacity, as the former international players shocked the youthful and full of life Bullets players with a late strike from Dunga Mkandawire, former ESCOM United forward.

Bullets Coach Eddington Ng’onamo approached the game casually, doubting the tired legs of the veteran stars when he first featured mostly non-regulars.

However, he was stunned when the retired stars gave his boys no chance forcing him to start fielding all the players who matter to him.

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Among the retired players who featured included Msuku, Yobe, Joseph Gatros, Billiat ‘Angerezi’ Mkwapatira, Mkandawire  (scorer), Thango Chauma, Afiki Sikelo aka Anyungwi, Lawrence Mnenula, Thom Milanzie, Joe Kaoza, Albert ‘Kika’ Mpinganjira and Francis Songo who travelled all the way from Lilongwe.

But the toast of the day for the veterans was goalkeeper Weston Chifutwe, formerly of disbanded MDC United who entertained spectators with his swift saves throughout the game to the delight of the supporters.

Chifutwe was indisputably man of the match no wonder after the game scores of spectators crowded him and patted him on the back why others queried him why he retired so early when he was still much better than most of today’s Super League goalkeepers.

Even Dr Henry Kaka Chibowa, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) Presidential aspirant during the December 17, 2011 polls, who watched the game, was perpetually seen nodding his head in admiration of Chifutwe’s heroic acts.

Another player who showed his former virtuosity was Albert Mpinganjira who despite failing to score gave Bullets defense marshaled by Fundi Akidu and keeper Vincent Gona a tough time.

On the other camp, Bullets had most of their regulars in the likes of former captain Akidu, Douglas ‘Section 65’ Chirambo, Wayile Tembeta, Tadala Masamba and Rasta.

The former players are expected to play another game against one of the top three teams in Lilongwe (Silver Strikers, Civo or Blue Eagles) but Msuku said “we are yet to settle on which side play against”.

Fund raising

The Former players are also engaging FAM to map the way forward on how former Flames players, most of whom are currently struggling financially, could be assisted.

Unfortunately, despite knowing about the friendly game, no FAM representative watched the game for more support.

“It is sad to see most of the former players begging around town and living under life-threatening situations while many more have died in sorry states after diligently serving the country,” moaned Msuku.

He added: “We want these former international players to be respected and at least live a modest life after their football careers.”

Kick starting their agenda, apart from organizing the friendly game against Bullets they also had a big walk in Blantyre which was well patronized.

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