As he opens the door to welcome Nation on Sunday crew into his Kanjedza Township home in Blantyre, Flames midfielder Joseph â€˜Shakiraâ€™ Kamwendo is all smiles. All is well with him, what with the limelight he is enjoying following the upturn in his footballing fortunes!
As he ushers us in, we cannot miss to appreciate Kamwendoâ€™s passion for reggae music and Rastafarianism.
He appears relaxed, in green shorts, a bright yellow vest, red snickers and the colours complete the Rastafarian flag. In the living room hangs two huge portraits of Emperor Haile Sellasie and reggae legend, the late Bob Marley.
But it is the music playing in the background that catches our attention. It is a song of Jamaican reggae artist Sizzle Kalonje titled Solid as a Rock.
The lyrics match the theme of the trip to talk to Kamwendoâ€”his return to top form when the chips were down and his career looked doomed.
Kamwendo is the countryâ€™s player-of-the-moment, producing magic for both his club Mighty Wanderers and the Flames.
He is hot property and is being sought after by Mamelodi Sundowns, one of the top teams in South Africa, and two European teams. Yet eight months ago, he was struggling to make the bench for the Flames after being deemed surplus to requirement at South African PSL side Orlando Pirates.
And asking him the secret behind his dramatic revival, Kamwendo stands up and walks towards the Sony 5.1 HDMI home theatre and rewinds the song to the first verse and gestures to us to listen to the song as an answer to the question.
Part of the song goes: â€œThey canâ€™t keep a good man down, always keep a smile when they want me to frown, Keep the vibes and I stood my grounds, They will never ever take my crown, Who Jah bless I say no man curse, things get better when they thought it would be worstâ€¦â€¦ Cuz.
â€œIâ€™m as solid as a rock, they just canâ€™t stop me now, People will say this and that, and they just canâ€™t stop me nowâ€¦â€
Then, he stops the music, and there is silence for a minute. He takes a long deep breath and says: â€œGod is on my side, He has great plans for me. Whatever happens and whatever people say, they will never stop me from expressing my talent to the fullest.â€
When Kamwendo in August 2011Â decided to terminate his contract with Pirates and return home after four years in South Africa, some people predicted doom for his career.
He struggled at Pirates, where for four seasons he only played 36 games and scored four goals. He was regarded as a flop signing and was then transfer-listed. But he decided to terminate the contract, return home and start afresh.
Upon his return, he struggled for form at Wanderers and in the national team where he lost his usual left-wing position to a local player Frank Banda. He was reduced to a sideshow in games against Botswana, Tunisia and Chad.
But after two months, he picked up.Â He created and scored vital goals for the Nomads, including the winning goal against Big Bullets last December. Then, heÂ put on a brilliant performance as captain of the Flames at the Cecafa tournament in Tanzania.
AndÂ justÂ last month, he shone against Kenya and Nigeria in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers with man-of-the-match displays before capping it all with a spectacular goal against Chad that took MalawiÂ to the final qualifying round of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
His comeback reached the climax last Sunday when he inspired Wanderers to come from behind and beat Bullets 2-1 as he scored a stunning winner.
And last Friday, during the 48th Independence Anniversary Celebrations, it just got better when he scored the only goal that gave the Flames a first win against Zambia in nine years.
â€œIt is just about self-belief. I know I can do it. People forgot that I was once in Denmark where I was also frustrated and I terminated my contract and returned home. But I managed to pick up and got the Pirates deal within five months. In this case, I knew I would do it again,â€ he said.
In 2007, Kamwendo surprised many soccer fans when he terminated his five-year contract with FC Norldsjaellend of Denmark to rejoin Wanderers just as he did last year.
â€œIn Denmark, the decision [to terminate my contract] was purely personal, but for Pirates it was anger and frustration. I was reduced to a sideshow for three seasons and was loaned to Vasco da Gama where I played 25 league games in one season. I was voted Vascoâ€™s player of the season and when I returned to Pirates I was transfer-listed.
â€œThere is a lot of politics at South African teams. Look at Chiukepo [Msowoya], he was hot when he joined Pirates, but played nine games in two seasons, then there is the case ofÂ Dave Banda, a quality player being frustrated at Leopards. What about Moses Chavula? Is he that bad that Amazulu can send him to the reserve side and then offload him?â€ wondered Kamwendo.
He added: â€œSankhani Mkandawire and Jacob Ngwira were key players at Carara Kicks, but they have been fired. Atusaye Nyondo was in top form, scoring each game for SuperSport [United] in the first round, but spent the second round shunting between the main team bench and their reserve side.
â€œMzava was not registered for the whole season [at Bloemfontein Celtic]. Maybe I am missing the point, but there is need to explain such cases.â€
He also dismissed a claim that he is one of the players not good enough for professional football.
â€œI was the first and remain the only foreigner to win the Zimbabwe PSL player of the season. I am one of only two Africans, alongside Sibusiso Zuma of South Africa, to win the Danish League Goal of the Season Award.Â I won man-of-the-match awards at Pirates against English Premier League sides Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.
â€œI scored great goals in two Soweto derbies against Kaizer Chiefs. Does that not show I am capable of doing great things if given a proper chance?â€ he wondered.
Celebrated former Flames star Ernest Mtawali, who has recommended Kamwendo to Sundowns, says the player can match the playing style of Sundowns.
â€œKamwendo needs a team where you pass a lot and Sundowns is ideal. But again Malawian players have struggled because of poor management.
â€œThere is a lot of politics in football. You need to have a strong manager to beÂ fighting your case when the chips are down,â€ said Mtawali.
Malawi does not have a Fifa approved agent whereas local managers lack bargaining power for deals.
Kamwendo has since signed a contract with South African agent Charles Martin who is flying him to South Africa this week.
â€œHe is supposed to come for talks with Sundowns, but there are also interests from Toulose in France and Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. He is a great player,â€ said Martin.
Whatever happens, one thing for sure is that Kamwendo is not about to give up the fight.
After all, he is as solid as a rock. n