During his tenure as Flames coach, Kinnah Phiri did not touch virgin heights, but he did his part. Oh yes he did! And I will miss him.
And I will always have fond memories of his feat to guide the Flames to qualify for 2010 Africa Cup of Nations after 26 years in the wilderness.
Yeah, we might have lost to Burkina Faso in the final group game, but I still remember him bursting into the time-worn simanjemanje dance of the 1980s at a club in Ouagadougou on that unforgettable night as we celebrated the Flames’ historic qualification—boy! Oh boy!
In sport, the line between success and failure can be very thin as Kinnah realised that fateful evening in Chad’s capital N’djamena, when his dream for a second successive Afcon qualification went up in smoke with only a minute to go as the Flames led 2-1 only to allow the hosts to grab an equaliser in the last minute of added time and all we did was to drown our sorrows with booze.
So, how else will I remember Kinnah, the man Peter Mponda and his troops fondly called ‘Mina’?
Others say the 1-0 win over the then African champions Egypt in a joint 2010 World Cup and Afcon qualifier, stands out. But to me, Kinnah’s defining moment was when the Flames scorched World Cup-bound Desert Foxes of Algeria 3-0 during the 2010 Afcon tournament in Angola.
It was the day when my beloved Flames floated like butterflies and stung like bees. They basked in global limelight and as I proudly got the glimpse of action from the media enclosure of the November 11 Stadium in Luanda, there was a feeling of immense pride in me. Sadly, though, they lost the plot in the subsequent matches.
Of course, Kinnah had his shortfalls, just like all of us. He also appeared to have lost the plot to the point of struggling to beat minnows Eritrea, but to try and erase the iconic sights and sounds that he produced during his tenure, would be myopic.
He will no longer be driving his official Toyota Hilux, but when we see him in town steering his small old-fashioned Toyota Corolla, let us offer him a hearty wave!
He might have used the swimming pool at the mansion he stayed at for sun-drying mphale, other than the luxury of enjoying a dip, but all that is gone and it is time to move on.
And boy! I will miss his other part of sheer comedy like when he tried to persuade wonderkid Gabadinho not to sit his Form Two terminal exams in order to join the Flames, saying “Simayeso yeni-yeni yameneyo, kaya ndi ya weekly kaya ndi ya mock kaya!”
Too bad that he has to go, isn’t it? But I guess there always comes a time. Anyway, thanks for the memories Sibweni Kinnah. I always feel it was a privilege to have worked with you mate! To God be the glory! Uloliwe.. Uloliwe wayidudula hi..Nang’esiza! [The train is pushing!]