- Category: Sports Extra
- Written by Peter Kanjere
It was a sad day.
A minute of silence for the departed man who gave Malawi a feel-good first Africa Cup of Nations taste was followed by a defeat that denied the Flames a third appearance at the continental football panorama.
So, just as the 2013 must-win qualifier started with a moment of remembering trail-blazing Nations Cup coach late Henry Moyo, it also ended with tears and jeers for coach Kinnah Phiri.
â€œKinnah achokeâ€¦tipeze wina (Kinnah must go, we should find another coach)â€ the fans chanted at Civo Stadium after Malawi lost 1-0 to Ghana to miss out on the 2013 Nations Cup trip to South Africa.
Kinnah, dressed in a khaki pair of trousers and a cream white shirt, stood hands akimbo on the Civo pitch touchline.
Surely, given a choice Kinnah would have loved to win the game in honour of his departed Bata Bullets team mate Moyo who was to eventually coach him in the national team.
Ironically, Moyo, who died of kidney failure on Friday in Lilongwe, was the first coach to take Malawi to the Africa Cup of Nations. He did it in the 1984 Afcon in Cote dâ€™Ivoire.
In taking the Flames to the 2010 Nations Cup finals in Angola, Kinnah merely imitated Moyo who was affectionately called Mbwanga in football circles.
Mark the words â€˜imitateâ€™ and not â€˜matchâ€™ as Moyo steered the Flames to the 1984 maiden Nations Cup finals with aplomb. A 1-0 win in Madagascar was followed by a come-from-behind 1-1 draw at Kamuzu Stadium. These qualifiers were played in 1983.
Yes, Malawi, which scored in both legs against Madagascar through the late Stock Dandize, had the luxury of winning on the road.
It is a thing current Flames can only dream of as they bowed out of the 2013 race with a win and three defeats.
In Moyoâ€™s days, so high were FAMâ€™s standards that after earning the national team qualification to the 1984 Nations Cup finals, he was demoted to deputise clueless Englishman Danny McLennan.
So great was Moyo when, after retiring as Bata Bullets defender, to become coach for Berec Power Pack (the forerunner of MDC United) then for the Flames, his influence on players was so strong.
â€œMbwanga mpira sumatha[boy that is not how to play football],â€ Moyo would joke with his players.
A firm believer in fitness, Moyo was soon to be nicknamed Mbwanga and he took no offence.
The man, who spent his childhood in Zambia, had in the late stages of his life switched to politics, serving as former president Bakili Muluziâ€™s adviser on youth affairs.
He, having also served as FAM technical committee head, eventually kept football matters at an armâ€™s length.
On his rare football forum appearance in April at Chichiri Conference Centre to receive his certificate of achievement during Big Bulletsâ€™ dinner and dance, it was clear something was wrong with Moyo.
â€œI feel greatly honoured. I have done a lot for Malawi football. I was the first coach ever to take Malawi to the Nations Cup finals. Not even expatriate coaches could manage that,â€ Moyo said.
As he spoke in low tone, it was clear he was in pain. The same was with his walking. It was quite a change for a quick-footed man ever cheerful and humorous.
As the guests wined and dined the Bullets Red Night away, his son, former MBCtv sports presenter Kelvin Moyo, came to pick his father home.
Moyo senior, clutching his certificate, waved good bye to all present. It was to be his last.
â€œHe had been ill for sometime,â€ Kelvin said on Saturday. Burial took place in Kasungu on Sunday.
In passing on a day before the Flames faced Ghana, perhaps Moyo could not wait for the Flames to disappoint him with such a loss. What a way to say goodbye Mbwanga.