He was ridiculed as hopeless player by a section of the soccer fraternity and was eventually fired by Azam Tigers coach Leo Mpulula in October last year.
But George Nyirenda never gave up and continued to work extra hard. He picked up the pieces at Big Bullets FC where he has turned into their defence pillar, leading to his national team selectionâ€”just six months after being discarded by the no-nonsense Mpulula.
He was on the bench last Wednesday when the Flames were held by the Chinese Under-22 national side.
The Dwangwa-born and raised Nyirenda said being dismissed at Tigers was a blessing in disguise as the move opened a new and brighter chapter of his career.
He opened up on his frustration at being given the marching orders at Tigers in an interview this week.
“I was so disappointed and devastated to hear the coach calling me a useless player on radio and in newspapers. He never told me in the face.
“My parents even advised me to quit the game because of Mpululaâ€™s remarks, but I told myself this was a motivating factor to work hard and prove him wrong. God has been on my side as things are now working out for me.
“But to an extent, I thank [Mpulula] because I have made a name at Bullets more quickly than I would have done at Tigers,” said the soft-spoken and dread-rocked defender.
Nyirenda was among the 10-plus casualties at Tigers after Mpulula took over midway into the first round of last season.
But he believes he did not deserve to get the boot because the coach never gave him a chance.
“When Leo joined Tigers, I was injured. I was surprised to hear he did not want me when I never played under him.
“He claimed he knew me before he came to Tigers, I tried to plead with him to give me a chance and senior players also tried to plead my case, but he stuck to his guns and fired me.
“I packed my bags and headed home to Dwangwa, my dreams were shattered, but after a while, I decided it would be a weakness to give up and that is why I came back to join Bullets. I worked hard and, as they say, the rest is history,” said Nyirenda.
He added that he does not hold a grudge against Mpulula, saying they are in touch.
“He called me after I had played three games for Bullets and told me he regretted his decision to fire me and urged me to return, but I flatly refused. We are in good terms though. We visit each other because we stay just a few metres apart in Chilobwe Township.
“His decision, to me, was influenced by God as my path to scale great heights, so I see no need to point fingers,” said Nyirenda, who won the Man-of-the-match Award on his Bullets debut against Epac United.
He thanked the Bullets family for giving him a second chance to revive his career and says he will continue working hard as a thank you.
“They looked at my abilities, worked on my weaknesses and now I am a better player. My wish is to help Bullets win a cup, establish myself in the Flames set-up and clinch a deal abroad,” he added.
Three years ago, Nyirenda was a striker for Dwasco, but when they were relegated, he moved to Tigers where former coach McDonald Mtetemera turned him into a defender.
“At first, I pushed him into central midfield when we had a defence crisis and his performance was superb. It is a pity they decided to let him go and I know they regret that move now,” said Mtetemera.
Mpulula could not be reached for comment as he was travelling from a coaching course in Germany.
Bullets assistant coach Gerald Phiri said they took a gamble in taking Nyirenda on board because they knew he had qualities of a good player.
“He can play in any position and we saw the quality in him when we played against Tigers. He was outstanding.
“So, when they fired him, we decided to give him a chance. Of course, he had some weaknesses here and there which we worked on because that is our duty as coaches.
“He was not good at passing, but he took our advice and that is why he is able to stand tall now. He is an asset and is well disciplined. He will go places if he maintains the pace he has taken at the moment,” said Phiri. .
Flames coach Kinnah Phiri said the player has a future with the team as he has age on his side.