Nyasa Big Bullets veteran winger Fischer Kondowe has confessed that had it not been for his outstanding performance during a Blantyre Mayor’s Trophy match in the 1990s, he could not have made it big in football.
Then, the former Flames star, who started his career as a striker, caught the attention of ‘Banyamulenge’ (Bata Bullets Youth team) coach the late Dave Mpesi after he scored and created a goal to help Chimwankhunda Primary School draw 2-2 with Bangwe Primary and progress to the quarter-finals on post-match penalties at Blantyre Youth Centre (BYC).
“I arrived late at the match venue and I was featured as a second half substitute. As a striker, I made an immediate impact after scoring within five minutes before creating another one 10 minutes later.
“This impressed Mpesi, who immediately drafted me into Banyamulenge squad before I got promoted into Bullets main team. I will always cherish that moment because it set me onto the right path to stardom,” said the Super League’s longest-serving player, who also had stints with Umtata Bush Bucks, Black Leopards and Bloemfontein Celtic in the South Africa Premier Soccer League (PSL).
Such was the impact of the Mayor’s Trophy. Since 1968, it was able to unearth and polish raw talents into sparkling stars.
High-profile former football stars such as Ernest Mtawali, Lawrence Waya, and Chancy Gondwe went through the schools’ competition before they put an indelible mark on the soccer arena.
But it was not only football players that benefited from the contest; netballers also had their fair share of fun and glamour, as Malawi Netball Queens legend Mary Waya testifies.
“Mayor’s Trophy helped me to gain exposure and make friends. It involved a lot of travelling across the country through intercity events that saw top-two teams from each city competing for national glory,” the former Queens shooter and coach said.
“I remember I was in Standard Four at St. Pius Girls Primary School in Blantyre when I initially participated in the Mayor’s Trophy. I also represented Mzuzu CCAP Primary School as we emerged champions at national level before I started club netball at Oriental Tobacco Sisters and moved to other teams such as Blue Eagles Sisters, MBC Radio Women and Postnets [now Thunder Queens].”
Her sisters Ruth, Emmie and Harriet also went through the same path before becoming high-profile netballers whereas her brothers Lawrence, Mabvuto and the late George did the same in football. In her family, it was only their eldest brother the late Harry, who did not have a feel of the Mayor’s Trophy as he was already in secondary school when the event was established.
According to Kondowe, although there were no monetary gains in the Mayor’s Trophy, they had fun and they benefited a lot from the annual competition.
“After scoring or having a good performance in a match, our hearts were always filled with joy because we knew we would be mentioned during a school assembly on the next Monday morning. For us, that was enough motivation,” he said.
But six years after the competition went into hibernation, such great fun is set to return among primary school learners following the relaunch of the Blantyre Mayor’s Trophy at Sunbird Mount Soche few days ago.
According to Blantyre City Mayor Noel Chalamanda, the event, whose current budget is K10.5 million, has been dormant for the past few years because the city did not have elected councillors to form a council and have a mayor.
“The Mayor’s Trophy is back. This time, it is back for good and I hope with a bang,” Chalamanda declared. “Sport speaks a language that many youths understand. With the trophy coming, it is our strong belief that we are going to communicate a special message to the youth.”
Nevertheless, the mayor said the competition, which is expected to start next week and bring together pupils from 50 primary schools in the city, needs financial and material support from the corporate world and individuals to materialise.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa, who was guest of honour during the relaunch, set the ball rolling by contributing K1 million towards the budget.
In spite of that, the Mayor’s Trophy will face serious venue challenges as most of the school grounds that previously hosted the competition are no longer in existence after being consumed by schools blocks, church buildings and other infrastructures. n