One of my most catchy trips was six years ago when I accompanied Malawiâ€™s Under-20 national soccer team to South Africaâ€™s North-West province capital Mafikeng for the Cosafa Youth Championship.
We were about 34 of us, including two journalists (myself and little Gomezgani Zakazaka), crammed in that minibus. It was a long and wearisome trip and that we enjoyed the 43-hour journey was because of the ingenuity of a couple of naughty players blessed with a gift to entertain. They included Ndaziona Chilemba, Vincent Gona and Chimwemwe Chitedze.
Â It was also the first time that I had a close interaction with Flames goalkeeper trainer McHodges Chunga, who was then the Under-20 manager.
The fun started right at the Mwanza Border, when the â€˜naughtyâ€™ players spotted an old-fashioned briefcase belonging to Chunga as he fetched his passport. The briefcase had lost its original colour, suggesting it could have lived a few years past its lifespan! The boys taunted Chunga, saying he had carried a state-of-the-art laptop. Oh, how naughty boys can be!
That was not all. Along the way, Chunga bought the team small buns that were meant for supper. I remember each got one, but at some point, the boys protested that it was not enough and asked for some more, but Chunga told them that they were finished.
But alas! He was spotted â€˜pinchingâ€™ the same buns from a plastic bag hidden underneath his seat and this gave the boys another reason to poke at him throughout the trip and I still remember that all Chunga could say as he smiled was â€œAah.. aphwanga tinali totsalira iti!â€ He never gave a damn about it, perhaps realising it was part of the fun.
Over the years, Chunga is a man who has developed a special bond with the players, be it at national or club level because of his friendly attitude.
And by the way, he also has specials charms. I have come to realise that everytime he leaves the Flames bench at Kamuzu Stadium and heads for the dressing room, the Flames score a goalâ€”it happened against Egypt in 2008 and Zambia last year, the Flames won both games 1-0â€”whatever he does there!
It is with this in mind that I hope Chunga will be spared as FAM reviews the Flames junior technical panel. Please Walter and Moses! Spare my Chunga and I am sure Kinnah knows what I am talking about. To God be the glory! Uloliwe.. Uloliwe wayidudula hi..nangâ€™esiza! [The train is pushing!].