Morality discourages rekindling of death memories. But somehow, some deaths are worth constant reminding. They inspire an idea or a cause and Douglas Chirambo’s demise befits such class.
An amazing footballer, tender-hearted and a cheerful soul, the Bullets left back fought so hard like a soldier on the frontline of a fierce battle, to survive a tormenting brain tumor.
But shockingly, in April this year, amidst his struggle to raise funds for surgery abroad, beneath the layers of pain and his willingness to endure, came death: sudden, simple and final.
The sad event inspired a reaction from Super League of Malawi (Sulom) which announced that it had signed an agreement with Medical Aid Society of Malawi (Masm) to put all players on medical scheme.
This measure, as desperate as Sulom treasurer Tiya Somba-Banda sounded when outlining it, was designed to ensure that the players get proper medical care—to avoid a similar tragedy or possibly, God forbid, an uglier one.
“The medical cover will include injuries sustained on the pitch among other ailments,” he said.
The initiative, as unripe as it was, must have surely driven Douglas’ wandering spirit into martyrdom. The pain, the desperation and helplessness I endured, he might have thought, were not in vain; I have died for a cause.
However, there seems to be little progress being made to activate the scheme as Sulom general secretary Williams Banda confesses: “The players are not on medical scheme yet because clubs are not remitting their contribution.”
Under the agreement, every team was supposed to be remitting K54 000 monthly, but Banda feels there is no political will.
Recently, Be Forward Wanderers general secretary Mike Butao said they were doing their best to put their players on the scheme. His remarks were echoed by Bullets, Silver Strikers and Azam Tigers.
Nevertheless, bearing in mind that the players were supposed to access the scheme by May 1, 2015, the clubs are, for whatever reasons, seen to be making a simple process appear labourious and complicated.
This slow pace is worrying the hearts of many players among them Mafco captain Zasha Nong’oneza.
“Most clubs ignore their players when they are sick or injured,” he stresses, “medical scheme is our only hope.”
At one point, Zasha sustained a career-threatening knee injury which sidelined him for a year. He believes that if it was at another club his career was dead and buried.
“I have played for clubs where when you get injured you are left helpless, without support,” he says, “when you fall on such hard times, it’s when you need medical cover.”
Meanwhile, Sulom is encouraging players to push their clubs to commit to the agreement or the project will fall off.
Dumping the scheme’s fate at the feet of footballers can be as worse as aborting it all together because, as Bullets veteran winger Fischer Kondowe is learning, players are not standing up to the cause.
“We are not serious with our lives. Maybe we are so used to playing at risk,” he notes. “If the scheme fails then we are the ones to blame.”
The medical scheme is widely viewed as a code to unlock valuable medical aid for players, most of who are underpaid. But its dormancy makes it all look like the project was being buried with Douglas at his village in Rumphi District. n