In English, Innocent Chitimbe’s surname is a tree called ‘camel’s foot’. Ironically, he is innocently evergreen as the tropical tree where football commentary is concerned. Our Staff Reporter BRIAN ITAI explores the mastery of Chitimbe’s art:
The art of football commentary, whether on television or radio, has its own prerequisites that demand some special qualities and capabilities. Needless to say: It is not every Jack and Jill’s trade.
The pattern and manner in which some of the known names in the trade have presented the art over the years has almost constructed a standard which everybody seeks to emulate.
Locally, through the generations we have had the likes of Pearson Chunga, Elias Kapalamula, Geoffrey Msampha and Steve Liwewe Banda who have done the radio football commentaries with unreserved distinction.
Currently, one of the most followed foreign football leagues, the English Premiership, boasts of big names such as Jon Champion, Peter Drury, Andy Townsend, Martyn Tyer, among others. Week-in-week-out they continue to thrill TV audiences with their dynamism and in-depth research skills.
But why does everyone want to parrot the Liwewe’s of this world?
There is a new local kid on the block who has fashioned his own way of football commentary which is unique, full of wit and captivating.
With his use of strange but catchy Chichewa phrases and words, Timveni Radio’s sports personality Innocent Chitimbe is in his own class.
Within a decade, he seems to have won over a huge following with his style.
During the UEFA Champions league final between Real Madrid and Liverpool, Chitimbe took his game to a whole new level altogether in a non-stop three-minute and 20 seconds description of the game.
Woimbira waimbadi kuti likalemba lalemba, wakufa lero safa mawa. Anyamata a timu ya Liverpool, mzimu wakuipa wawasuzumira. Tikutsimikiza kuti, Real Madrid ndi akatundu omanga ndi mawaya. Ndi mchochombe, anamanyonyolo, khokhomotcho, msalamangwe, zamu UEFA Champions league.
Ndi achalume anyamata amenewa. Timu ya Liverpool bulu waang’amba nthiti. Anyamata a timu ya Liverpool ulendo wathera m’mazira, yapunthidwa Liverpool. Ayisosola nthenga. Ayichotsa chifu. Ayisosola. Ayimeta mpala wopanda madzi. Ayiminitsa timu ya Liverpool. Yaona polekera itagogodedwa, itagagadidwa, ayilikitimula timu ya Liverpool.
An English version for the commentary, would take an eon to work out, exposing the depth of Chitimbe’s Chichewa figures.
He admits that in a quest to retain a degree of uniqueness and spice up his presentation, some of the phrases and words he uses are just a creation of his own imagination and that they do not come from a particular script.
“It comes from an understanding that this is just a game which is meant to be enjoyed by everybody involved. I have to enjoy what I am doing, so should those listening to me as well. If my presentation was to be passive and flat then I would easily lose the audience,” he says.
During his commentaries when one player misses a clear chance, you hear Chitimbe screaming; “Wachita phuma ngati mlonda woyamba kumene ntchito!”
He says: “Some games tend to be exciting and it is very boring to be commentating such games. For the listener the onus is always on you to inject some life in the game.”
Akuyenda monyang’wa, monyadira, ngati wa njinga ya kabaza wonyamula kangenge kamene sikake. Atha kuliza belu nthawi ina iliyonse imene angafune. Timu ya Liverpool yachita jenkha ngati oyiwala chenje m’minibasi. Yachita njengunje ngati batchala pakati pa azimayi potunga madzi. Yachita ntcheng’eneng’e ngati dalaivala wa minibasi wonyamula mapasenjala folo-folo akakumana ndi a thalafiki opezeka ku Kanengo, ku Chichiri angakhalenso ku Mchengautuwa.
He says he enjoys and gets inspired more when a small team defeats a big team.
“Those are one of my most enjoyable moments. I always strive to create something new and exciting when that happens. It is all part of the game,” he says.
The Lilongwe-based commentator, who is fondly called D7 Namatcheni by his peers, credits his path to football commentary to his younger days when he could play commentator during street football with his mates.
“Every time we went to play football they would rather have me outside doing the commentary for them than in the field playing. That was my initial preparation for this art,” he explains.
The 28-year-old only realised his dream in 2010 when he started out as a touchline commentator after joining Timveni Radio (Then Star FM) after graduating from the Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ).
He says: “The one who was supposed to be on duty that day did not show up at the stadium in good time. There was need for someone to step in and I grabbed the opportunity. As they say the rest is history.”
He grew up idolising Liwewe Banda, even though he admits now that his style is very different from the man he grew up looking up to.
“Like any other job, football commentary has its own challenges as well. Some of the players have very difficult names to pronounce. And this work requires more attention to detail and a good history of the teams involved on a particular day,” he says.
Tikutsimikiza pano kuti anyamata a timu ya Liverpool awathotholera mabatani, awakhapira kosathwa. Tikukamba kuti akumana ndi nyengo ya zowawa, nyengo ya chipongwe. Mthunzi wapita poti mtengo wagwa. opanda Mo Salah, timu ya Liverpool usiku wa lero yayendadi khwakhwakhwa ngati m’nyengo ya maluzi. Yayendetsedwadi tchibiya tchibiya, ngati nkhuku zachitopa. Yanyowa timu ya Liverpool.
Yapereka ulemu kwa woyenera ulemu, kwa anyamata a Real Madrid.
Lilongwe-based football fanatic Kim Kamau has also been caught with the spell of Chitimbe’s artistry and he says so far there is no one who has mastered English football league commentary like him.
Kamau says: “The fact that his commentary is in Chichewa makes it to appeal to a cross-section of people. His figurative expressions are spicy and succulent. Even when he is doing commentary on the EPL games, you still enjoy the games as if you are watching the action.”
Chitimbe has another face away from football commentary. He is an accomplished musician with two albums under his belt, Luso Langa Volume 1 released in 2012 and Luso Langa Volume 2 released this year.
He recently won the traditional artist of the year at the Nyasa Music Awards (NMAs).