For Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango, 2017 provided a painful lesson of how cruel football—which revered Brazilian legend Pele somehow called the most beautiful game in the world, can be — the fine margins that separate heroes and villains and how it quickly turns its back on those who would have failed the test.
After six months spent basking in the spotlight of colourful back pages and television screens that promised a happy ending—a tomorrow that would bring gold and all the glitters that come with it, the reality check, when it came—was as brutal as it was painful as Gabadinho turned into a subject of ridicule on social media and South African tabloids in the last half of the year following his slump in form and a spitting incident.
After a bewitchingly creative display in which his pure quality shone like a flare—inspiring Wits to their first Premier Soccer League (PSL) title and capping it up with the club’s top scorer award in the 2016/17 season—suddenly the sky fell on the Flames forward in the second half of the year when nothing appeared to work out for him.
Gabadinho was slapped with a six-match ban for spitting at an opponent during a league game, his team also finished the year at the bottom of the 16-team league, almost half way through the season. And as if that is not enough, he is yet to score in the current season.
“I have probably been just going through a bad patch, but I will pick myself up, it happens in football,” Gabadinho told The Nation recently.
The situation is also not rosy for his team-mate and compatriot Gerald Phiri Jnr who rarely gets a run since his return from a loan spell at Platinum Stars. His consolation though, was scoring in his maiden appearance.
The misfortunes extended to burly forward Chiukepo Msowoya who had a barren six-month spell at Golden Arrows where he failed to score and, instead, scored an own goal.
Another striker Atusaye Nyondo has also been reduced to a sideshow at Bloemfontein Celtic where he has only scored a goal so far this season against Kaizer Chiefs from the penalty spot in one of his rare appearances.
But it has not been all doom and gloom for Malawian players plying their trade in the Rainbow Nation. Midfielder Robert Ng’ambi continues to enjoy a rich vein of consistent form for his team Platinum Stars and has scored three league goals already this season—quite impressive for a midfielder.
That is not all. Ng’ambi also played a key role in his team’s qualification for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Confederation Cup group stages with a couple of goals.
Flames captain Limbikani ‘Pupa’ Mzava has also been one of the most consistent performers among the foreign legion and has been solid at the back for Arrows.
Winger-cum-striker Robin Ngalande’s revival has also been a wonder to behold. He has scored two back-to-back goals in the few games that he has played, proving that form is indeed temporary but class is permanent.
Said Ngalande: “I have not reached the level that I want, but I am satisfied with my progress. I am taking each game as it comes.”
In Mozambique, Richard Mbulu hogged the limelight by making an impression in only his maiden season which has seen him clinch a deal with a second-tier Portuguese side Associacao Desportiva Saojonsense.
Mbulu and Schumacher Kuwali were among the leading scorers in the Mozambican top-flight Mocambola League.
But it was goalkeeper Charles Swini and Frank Banda who hogged the limelight after helping their team HD Songo to win the title.