Bullets FC vocal general secretary Higger Mkandawire is on record to have claimed that players who play for his team are Bullets’ supporters.
“Players, who come to Bullets, are childhood diehards who dreamt about playing for Bullets. So, if a player is at Bullets, just know he has Bullets blood,” said Mkandawire in one of the local newspapers.
But former Bullets midfielder McDonald ‘Jima Jima’ Yobe had his own reasons for joining Bullets FC, contrary to Mkandawire’s claim.
Yobe joined The People’s Team from rivals Wanderers FC in 2001 after a disputed transfer wrangle that took close to a month to complete.
“It was all about money. I was a Wanderers fan and I joined them from ACT because I loved the Nomads.
“But Bullets’ offer was just too hard to resist. My mother was also a Nomad and could not allow me to join any other team, but she too was left speechless by Bullets’ offer and I had to go without thinking twice,” said Yobe in an interview from his Manja home in Blantyre on Tuesday.
The story of Yobe’s deal has resurfaced in the light of Wanderers’ intentions to sign Bullets’ top striker Gabadinho Mhango in what could rekindle the 2001 saga.
Wanderers say the player can fit well in their next year’s plans whereas Bullets claim he is The People’s Team diehard and can never play for Wanderers.
“Where there is money, people will always follow. I was a Nomad for life, but I left due to pressure to get what I was being offered,” Yobe said.
But what really happened?
“It all started on Thursday September 20, 2001,” Yobe started narrating. “I was chilling out with friends in town when I got a call from Mr Billy Tewesa (then Bullets team manager).
“We met and he told me they wanted to sign me. I thought it was a joke, but he took me to Mr [Hassam] Jussab where I was told it was a real deal.
“They offered huge signing-on fees and told me to go and get expensive furniture at Supreme. I explained to my mother and, after seeing what they were offering me, we had no choice,” he said.
That following weekend, Wanderers had a friendly game against Illovo in Nchalo and Yobe excused himself from the game. This sparked speculation that he was on the verge of leaving the team.
On Wednesday September 26, 2001, Bullets finally came in the open to confirm they had reached a deal with Yobe.
“Bullets snatch Yobe under Nomads nose!” screamed a headline at the back page of The Nation of that day. In the story, the then Bullets’ chairperson Jussab confirmed all the details regarding the move.
On the same day, Yobe wrote a resignation letter to Wanderers.
Then all hell broke loose.
Wanderers’ officials reacted by storming Yobe’s home the same day, but did not find him.
“I hid at a certain lodge in town. I don’t even remember the name,” he said.
On Friday, he returned home only to find Wanderers’ officials waiting for him. They forced him to withdraw the resignation.
“It was general secretary Willy Kalonga and coach Nsazurwimo Ramadhan. They took me to Moth Club at CI where we met chairperson Humphrey Mvula. They counter-offered and told me to sign a paper committing myself to Wanderers.
“I signed due to pressure. Then the following day, Bullets took me to Lilongwe to keep me away from Wanderers’ officials and for my safety against Nomads fans who were baying for my blood. I camped at Lilongwe Hotel as the deal was being finalised,” he said.
After days of discussions, Wanderers finally gave up and on October 11 2001 asked for K1.5 million as transfer fee. .
But Bullets bargained until the fees were reduced to K800 000 (about $2 352) which, at that time, was a record transfer fee.
He was cleared on a Friday night in time to make his debut the following day against Admarc Tigers in a third-round Embassy Trophy match.
Yobe went on to punish his former team seven months later when he scored the lone goal in a Carlsberg Cup final.