Two things that I consider very important were inadvertently overlooked in my last entry. First, it was to thank you all for keeping me company throughout the year and convey my wishes for a blessed festive season. They say better late than never and I hope those sentiments are still well received as they are conveyed at this belated point. You don’t know how much you are valued.
The other issue I should have mentioned — I know my blog version did touch on it — is the rejuvenated Blantyre derby which returned with a vengeance at the reopened Kamuzu Stadium on Sunday. I had my designs on watching it, but more pressing obligations meant it was not possible to get an opening. In hindsight, though, perhaps it was just as well given the emphatic nature of the score-line.
Sunday’s derby evoked memories of Boxing Day 1986. It was my first Christmas holiday as a secondary school chap and I was in Mangochi which I considered a football-mad town — I guess that is still the case. That was the first time most of Malawi heard of Steve Liwewe Banda (the Liwewe part only emerged later) when he partnered Geoffrey Msampha on Malawi’s only radio station to take us through the Blantyre derby.
Almost every corner I turned, people were glued to the radio and, in several cases, two people could be seen each clutching to their own radio — on full blast — as if they could not trust what would come out of a friend’s radio. The fact, though, was that you did not need a radio of your own because you could follow the match by just walking up and down the street as the commentary came from almost every home.
That match, just like the latest one, ended in favour of the then Bata Bullets and, just like then, the margin was emphatic. It was 5-2. Mangochi was shaken and what I liked about the town was that while the passion and the rivalry were intense, they were all displayed in friendly spirit. I could not understand the banter because most of it was in Yao, but it was as exciting to follow as the football match itself, in some cases even better.
This banter lasted for more than a day or a weekend. With political discourse being a taboo that time, the derby was the major talking point for a week or so in all public places of the town. Whether it was at the main market or the one across the river at Mtagaluka (popularly known as Mbaluku or, later, Soweto) all the talk was about what happened some 200 km away.
On which note I should congratulate Big Bullets on their victory. Mighty Wanderers have dominated this fixture in recent history and just getting the better of them could have been enough cause for ecstasy. That the margin was even that emphatic must have been the proverbial icing on the excitement cake and, as I have illustrated, this derby goes beyond its supposed metropolitan boundaries.
Talk of going beyond the borders; it is the second half of the football season in all of Europe. Continental Europe is returning from its winter break while Britain maintained its tradition of running a busy schedule over the festive period and it is the turn of the world’s oldest trophy, the FA Cup, to hog the headlines in England. It is that time again when we look forward to an upset or two. Happy New Year once again!