There is a tendency on the domestic football scene to force into retirement a player who has played for 10 seasons or more in the top-flight league, for being deemed old.
Recently, Nyasa Big Bullets veteran winger Fischer ‘Anong’a’ Kondowe endured mental torture from people who felt he should hang up his soccer boots, having been an active footballer since the late 1990s.
“It is just unfortunate that some misguided individuals say I am old and I should retire to pave the way for up-and-coming players despite that I still perform well during games. At first, such rubbish talk affected me but now I just ignore them and concentrate on my career,” Kondowe said.
Nevertheless, the heroics of Be Forward Wanderers’ back-from-retirement goalkeeper Vales Kamzere during the Fisd Challenge Cup finals at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe last week, should serve as a reminder to doubting Thomases that, in sports, age is just a number and experience is a great teacher.
Kamzere kept a clean-sheet in at least five games after the Nomads’ recent goalkeeping woes forced him out of retirement and saved two penalties to help Wanderers beat Kamuzu Barracks.
He was named man-of-the-match to relive the sweet moments when he helped the Nomads win the inaugural Presidential Cup in 2009 in similar fashion after saving three penalties against the now defunct Escom United.
After his heroic saves in the Fisd Challenge Cup final, there have been suggestions among soccer lovers that the Chiwembe Township resident in Blantyre should be considered for national team duties, a challenge the father of two daughters said is ready to take.
But did you know that Kamzere, who is Wanderers goalkeeper trainer, celebrated his 40th birthday five days prior to the Fisd Cup final and had retired in 2011 after featuring in the elite league for 15 years?
Did you know that Cameroonian football legend Roger Milla achieved international stardom at the age of 38 when he scored four goals at the 1990 World Cup and helped his country to become the first African team to reach the quarter-final stage of the global football fiesta?
He initially retired from international football in 1987 but, three years later, Cameroon President Paul Biya pleaded with him through a phone call to represent that country at the global showpiece.
It is also important to note that sometimes Bullets rely on their goalkeepers trainer and former Flames goalminder Swadick Sanudi for their Super League assignments and hardly concedes goals although he retired from active soccer over three years ago.
Flames legend Ernest Mtawali, aged 41, was still useful as a player at South Africa national First Division side PJ Stars in 2005 where he doubled as coach.
Said Mtawali: “In as long as one is still performing and still has the hunger and commitment, he or she should not be forced into retirement just because he has played for sometime or because of age.”
On his part, Kamzere, who last represented the Flames in the late 2000s against Djibouti at Kamuzu Stadium, said: “It really pains me when I hear some people force players into retirement just because they are in their late 30s or have been playing football for years,”
“This is not good for the country’s football success because experience is a great teacher. A long-serving player might not be as energetic as a youthful footballer but he knows a lot of technicalities that can still be useful to his team.” n