Malawi football has, in the past decade, seen the rise of top strikers that have made the art of scoring look easy through their exceptional talent, but only a few of them have stood the test of time to maintain their top form.
Most of them have worn the tag of one season wonders—shining one season and going into oblivion in the next.
For Nyasa Big Bullets striker Chiukepo Msowoya, the story of grace to grass and to grace again could best describe his career which has not been all that rosy, but somehow he has managed to rise from the ashes and shine again.
After rising to stardom in 2006, Chiukepo’s career took a slump but he is now back in the fore, winning the golden boot award with 14 goals and being crowned the best player of the 2015 Super League season. But how did it all start?
Just like Ivory Coast legendary striker Didier Drogba, Chiukepo began his serious football career at a rather advanced age in 2005 when he joined Karonga ADD (Kradd) where he played as an attacking midfielder.
“Initially I was just playing for my school team at Kaphuka Secondary School in Blantyre.
When I returned to Karonga, Kradd took me in to help them in the Khumbo Kachali League,” he explained.
Chiukepo’s impact was immediate and his goals helped Kradd to gain promotion to the Super League in 2006.
The bulky forward’s incipient talent took a step ahead when he took the Super League by storm, scoring in his first games against Civo United, Escom United (now defunct), Red Lions and Silver Strikers.
Escom were the best sponsored team at the time and coach Stuart Mbolembole did not relent in showing his admiration for Chiukepo, and he brought him on board in the first round.
Chiukepo had his work cut out to earn a first team place ahead of top players such as Heston Munthali and Mapopa Msukwa.
“It was an important move for me and I accepted the challenge to do well for the team,” he said.
Chiukepo lived up to his words by finishing the season as the Super League second top scorer with 17 goals—only beaten to the golden boot award by Wanderers’ Aggrey Kanyenda who scored 18 goals.
“I settled fast and fitted well in Escom’s system. It was a wonderful debut season for me,” explained Chiukepo while cracking a smile perhaps in reminisce of the ‘good’ old days.
Stellar spell at Escom United Chiukepo kept soaring at Escom and was the top scorer in the 2007/2008 season with 17 goals.
He was also voted player of the season as Escom won the league title.
Chiukepo then crossed the borders to join Mozambique’s Mulcumana in 2009 after impressing for the Flames in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
He scored vital goals as the Flames qualified for their second ever Africa Cup of Nations finals that were held in Angola.
His memorable strike was a late winner against Egypt at Kamuzu Stadium—Egypt’s first loss in over a year.
After a season in Mozambique, Chiukepo was loaned out to Rwanda’s APR in 2010.
At APR, he was top scorer in the Rwandan League with 12 goals.
He also scored seven goals during the Cecafa Club Championship to win the golden boot.
It was during the Cecafa Championship that Chiukepo caught the eye of South African giants Orlando Pirates that took him on board in 2011.
Troubled times at Pirates Chiukepo was a highly-rated striker at Pirates and there were high expectations that he would shine in the Rainbow Nation.
But just like his compatriot at the Buccaneers Joseph Kamwendo, Chiukepo failed to live up to his billing as he failed to cement a place in the first team.
“It was tough because foreigners are not given enough opportunity in South Africa. The club also had a lot of strikers therefore the club was not patient enough to give other players a chance,” he said.
“However, I was pleased that in my debut season Pirates won the league after a long drought. We also won the Nedbank and MTN 8 Cups.”
Chiukepo scored five goals in his debut season and three in the second as he struggled to get decent game time.
He then moved to Platinum Stars on loan in 2012 but then came back home to re-launch his career at Escom in 2013.
He played for Escom in the first round of the league only and then returned to Mozambique where he joined Maxaquene.
He scored seven goals for the club before moving to another Mozambican Club Costa Do Sol where he scored four goals.
He returned to Malawi in 2015 where he joined Bullets where he has rediscovered his form and has returned to the national team setup.
He is the current Flames vicecaptain and coach Ernest Mtawali’s main striker after being in the shadows of other strikers previously.
He scored four goals in six Flames appearances in 2015.
Change of lifestyle Chiukepo says his experiences have altered his lifestyle.
“I have been through a lot. I used to drink but now I know the evils of that behaviour. My advice to upcoming strikers is that they should concentrate on things that can advance their careers. Some of the behaviour that players engage in can end a player’s career prematurely,” Chiukepo finished with a word of advice.
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