Boxers Wilson Masamba and Osgood Kayuni are not the same hard punchers they are barely fighting on past reputation. The two are now soldiers.
They earn their salary from Army duties. Boxing takes the back seat.
Such duties can keep them out of action for months and even years. By nature, fitness is a must for their job. But athletes need match-fitness that comes with regularly competing in a sport at a high level.
In football, there was Andy Simkonda who could score four goals for Malawi Under-20 squad that unearthed the likes of Robin Ngalande and Luka Milanzi in 2009. As you read this, Simkonda may never play competitive football again.
Dave Banda was Flames midfield general. Black Leopards came begging with their blank cheque. He played in South Africa and it did not work. Back home, Banda has changed from Red Lions to Kamuzu Barracks. He has jumped from one foreign duty assignment to another. In short, he is not readily available for football. Flames are the biggest loser.
But hey, it is his future.
And oh, Gastin Simkonda is also reportedly gone for foreign Army service. Months of inactivity will eat into his scoring boots. Flames might have just lost out on a fine scorer who banged in some 17 league goals last season.
Malumbo Mkandawire also faded in similar fashion as he is now an official on Red Lions bench despite being so young for football retirement.
Now Flames coach Young Chimodzi is integrating Chikoti Chirwa and Amos Khamula from Red Lions and Airborne Rangers into the Flames’ fold. But just when they would be finding their feet, Army duties will take them away. My take is that the Army serves the nation, so let them concentrate on that.
If Army teams want to engage in competitive sports, let them reserve a small quota for Army players while hiring the bulk as full time sports men and women as is the case with APR of Rwanda and Primeiro de Agosto of Angola where James Sangala once played.
Currently, the conditions are unhealthy for Army athletes to compete for a long time. In fact, it is difficult for them to respect a sports career that earns them nothing except occasional promotions. You see now our Army footballers are quickest to sabotage their careers by beating referees? Not that only Army players assault referees, but it is so common among the soldiers.