By Ndisi Songa
What an era! The 1978 and 79 Malawi National Football team was a great side and was feared in the region. The team boasted exquisite talent and skillthat we marvelled with frenzy whenever we watched the Flames.
They played with passion and their sole motivation was winning games.This was a golden era when Malawi football had reached its highest high.
Malawi beat Zambia 3-2 at Kamuzu Stadium in November 1978 to win the trophy for the first time. The team went on to defend the cup the following year when they beat Kenya’s Harambee Stars, the hosts, 3-2 in the final.
Let us relive the nostalgic and landmark moments as I take you down the memory lane.
Below is the Flames dream team that did the country pride:
Saidi was first choice shot-stopper for both the Flames and Bata Bullets (now Nyasa Big Bullets). He was a good shot-stopper with good anticipation. He is arguably the best ever goalkeeper Malawi has ever produced.
Flames and Mighty Limbe Leaf Wanderers (now Be Forward Wanderers) goalkeeper. Flamboyant goalie whose telling saves were a marvel to watch.
Too good, he was nicknamed ‘Africa’! The winning captain of the 1978/79 CECAFA was arguably one of the finest number 5 the game has witnessed. The Malawi and Limbe Leaf Wanderers centre-back later played for and coached Kaiser Chiefs until 1989.He also captained the Flames that made its 1984 Africa Cup of Nations maiden appearance in Ivory Coast. He would later coach the Flames and Young Africans of Tanzania. He was technical director for Be Forward Wanderers until his death in 2018.
A dependable right-back who played his entire career for Bata Bullets. He served the club with dedication and passion. What a patriot! The calm and relaxed right back was also a great penalty taker of his time. His skills in defence earned him the nickname ‘Barbed’ as he was hard to pass in defence.Came from a footballing family. His brothers Lawrence and George were also great players of their generation.
Malola won the CECAFA Cup as a player and coach. The mainstay of University of Malawi FC was a natural left-back with high work rate and hadan amazing game-reading skill.
Like Collins Thewe, he was a soldier by profession and played for Red Lions, the military side.He played as a centre-back.
The youthful Hardware Stars defender was a skilled centre-back.
He played for Bata Bullets alongsideTopsyMsuku, TomyMkandawire, Harry Waya, Thom Kazembe, Michael Mkuntha, Michael Kaimfa, John Nkata, among others. He was an alert and reliable defender. A must have in any coach’s team.
One of the best defenders of his generation. The Bata Bullets centre-back was always alert and was blessed with good anticipation.
Fans coined the nickname ‘Master of body movement’ due to his trickery and sublime dribbling skills. The number 8 was a midfield maestro for Malawi and Blantyre-based Admarc Tigers. At national team level, he partnered with Thom Kazembe andCollins Thewe.
A real midfield general for the Flames and Bata Bullets. He was very instrumental in the 1978 CECAFA finals.A versatile central midfielder who was also a good passer of the ball.
Partnered with Jonathan Billie to form a midfield ‘rock’.Scored crucial goals for Malawi and his club, Red Lions.Thewe had good anticipation and was immensely comfortable on the ball. Thewe was also agood penalty taker of his era. He was a soldier by profession and is now retired..
RIGHT/LEFT MIDFIELDERS (WINGERS)
Like Clifton Msiya, Barnet possessed a powerful left foot and immensely contributed to Malawi’s winning of the1978 and 79 CECAFA. Many consider him as the deadliest dead-ball specialist the beautiful game has ever seen. Barnet also had the skill of scoring direct from corner kick spots. Was a real marvel to watch at both national team level and Limbe Leaf Wanderers.
Bulldozer! That was his nickname. A flamboyant figure with an imposing physical presence.Fantastic right winger for the national team and Hardware Stars.He was brave and had blistering pace.
Uncle to the writer.He influenced the writer to like football. The lanky winger was good both in the air and on the ground. One of the best wingers the game saw. Kannockwas a key member of the 1979 CECAFA winning team. He was also part of the Flames team that debuted at the 1975 East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup which was hosted by Zambia. He played for the national team and Limbe Leaf Wanderers.
Was a complete right- midfielder with an amazing game reading attribute. He played for Admarc Tigers before moving to Bata Bullets.
Considered by many as Malawi’s finest footballer of all time.Famed for scoring from unbelievable angles, Kinnah remains Malawi’s all time goal scorer. Fondly remembered for the winning goal he scored in the CECAFA final of 1978 let alone several other crucial goals he scored for the national team and his club, Bata Bullets.
‘Master of ball control’!That was his nickname. Malawi and Hardware Stars striker would kill any ball that came his way. Dandize scored crucial goals both at club level and national team. He later went to South Africa where he turned out for Bloemfontein Celtic and helped the team clinch the Mainstay Cup.
A lethal finisher of his era.Jimmy made the 1979 squad that beat Kenya to lift the ECASCC and was one of the youngest members of the team. He later sustained a knee injury while at the peak of his career and that was the beginning of the end of his otherwise brilliant career. The national teamand Limbe Leaf Wanders striker will always be remembered for his goal-poaching abilities that were second to none.
The Malawi and Bata Bullets forward was christened ‘Super header’ due to his aerial prowess. Spy and Frank Sinalo are considered by many as the greatest headers of the ball in the history of Malawi football.
Powell assumed the reigns of coaching after the Brazilian mentor, Wander Moreira, who had managed to assemblethe strongest Malawi squad ever.The English is arguably Malawi’s most celebrated coaches of all time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ndisi Songa, the writer of this article, is writing a book on Glorious days of Malawi football and finest Malawi footballers of all time. The book will be on the market by January 2021.