They came not to watch him play as they had done several times, but to pay last respects to Under-20 star Abel Mwakilama who died three weeks ago.
Scores of soccer-lovers, relatives and friends yesterday bade farewell to the Portuguese fourth-tier league club Sporting Clube de Esmoriz striker, who was buried at his home, Mwamalopa Village in group village head (GVH) Mpeta Mwakasungula in Paramount Chief Kyungu’s area.
Grief-stricken Abel’s parents lay a wreath on their son’s graveSpeaking on behalf of the Mwakilama family, Kerby Kamwambi said in Abel they had lost someone they hoped would develop the family.
Mwakilama’s death has raised questions on how the Under-20 player succumbed to malaria, after playing for the Under-20 national team just three weeks ago.
The former Chitipa United marksman is suspected to have contracted cerebral malaria when he came for Under-20’s first leg against Swaziland.
But Kamwambi, advised the deceased family to mourn in peace without pointing an accusing finger at anybody, saying only God knows who caused the death.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) second vice-president Othaniel Hara has said it would be hard to replace Mwakilama.
He said: “We also had hope that the presence of Abel in Europe was the beginning of good things for Malawi football to improve, but death has robbed us of a great opportunity in Mwakilama.”
District Commissioner for Karonga, Richard Hara, said he had earmarked Mwakilama for the role of football ambassador for the district, but was shocked to hear of his premature death.
The ceremony started with a mass led by St Mary’s parish priest Joakim Mwale, who advised the deceased family to seek comfort in God.