After quite a while, Flames self-proclaimed chief supporter Yona Malunga paid me a visit in the count down to the recent dead rubber 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Swaziland’s Sihlangu.
He had a packet of biltong in one hand and cheese in the other. He offered me part of the biltong but not the cheese, saying: “Mumadya biton? Eni lawani amakoma.” Then he switched to serious business, explaining that the reason for his visit was to give an interview and plead with Malawians to still go to Kamuzu Stadium in their large numbers to cheer the Flames even though they were out of contention.
“Pempho langa ndiloti anyamatawa tisawapange ‘disband’, tipite mwawunyinji tikawachemerere (My plea is that let’s not abandon our boys, they need our morale support).
But despite his assurance that he would be there at the match displaying his trademark belly-swaying jive, Yona was visibly absent.
No explanation was given by Yona for his absence and last Friday afternoon, he visited me at home, this time to rally support for his Be Forward Wanderers ahead of their Carlsberg Cup final match against Silver Strikers. His plea to his fellow nyerere (Nomads fans) was to avoid any acts of violence and support their team from start to finish.
Yona is a lively fellow who always wants to make his presence felt and as he spoke on top of his voice, he drew the attention of some of my neighbours, including little Ashraf who, in sheer curiosity, asked: “Uncle is that man pregnant?” in reference to Yona’s big belly.
Surprisingly, Yona was again nowhere near the stadium, but although his absence could be felt, it couldn’t take away the hype and there were scenes so lovely as Nomads fans turned the stadium into a theatre of celebrations. Their only sin though, was pitch invasion after their goalkeeper Richard Chipuwa saved that decisive penalty which could cost them a fortune.
It is as if I am seeing it now—Matthews Sibale stepping up to take that decisive penalty and there was an air of conviction and a touch of majesty as Chipuwa dived in the right direction to keep out the spot-kick that sparked wild celebrations. This was probably what Yona missed and you could read the regret in his eyes as he gave an explanation for his absence that he was busy attending a village bank meeting. Maybe he is losing steam, but he was still the missing link on that afternoon because of the flavour he adds to our football. Uloliwe wayidudula, neng’esiza hah! (Oh yes, the train is pushing). Glory be to God.