Death unites for a bad reason. Tuesday, domestic football legends of the 1960s, 70s and 80s converged on silence and sorrow. Current players lined up. One-by-one, heavy arms wrapped around their backs while visibly battling tears, they bowed as they filed past the late Jack Chamangwana’s casket.
At both ends of the brown casket, orange and blue flags stood still. Another flag hung in the crowd. Vice-President, Saulos Chilima, in dark spectacles, stared non-stop. Mourners wept uncontrollably. Fans chocked with song and emotions.
This was the moment when who-and-who of Malawi football thronged Kamuzu Stadium Upper Ground in Blantyre to pay their last respects to the departed humble defender, captain, coach and technical director they affectionately called Africa.
It was like the fans had come for a farewell game because the whole squad of the glory of yester years was there. But how could any match take place minus captain fantastic Chamangwana?
A stone throw away from Kamuzu Stadium where the late Chamangwana steered the national team to 1978 East and Central Africa Cup glory, his team-mate Boniface Maganga limped his way on a crutch.
Peterkins Kayira held Kinnah Phiri’s hand as he arrived. Young Chimodzi arrived alone. Gilbert Chirwa, too, was there alongside, Kannock Munde, Yasin Osman, Kanjedza Kamwendo and Precious Kumbatira.
As the legends filed past the casket, they seemed like they did not want to leave their friend, Chamangwana, alone. They stood next to the casket, stared at him lying in state and consoled each other.
Family representatives Samuel Kaphuka pleaded with football authorities to take care of footballers by putting them on medical schemes, his colleague Geoffrey Msampha called the late Chamangwana a humble hero, but it was Maganga who nailed it.
“Jack was my, my, my…. young brother,” the legendary keeper, while leaning on his crutch, attempted to speak before breaking down.
Maganga regained his composure and took the gathering back to the memory lane on how, alongside the late Chamangwana, they launched their football career from 1975 East and Central Africa Cup final to the dizzy heights of 1979 when they won the cup.
“We lost in the 1975 final due to poor officiation of Musa Bakari from Zanzibar. No team could stop us. Those giants of players represented this nation with pride but when we won the cup in 1979 we only received K5 while elsewhere, like in Cameroon, we heard that they bought their players cars,” Maganga said while pointing at Osman, Chirwa, Kinnah and company who stood up.
“I am not here to brag about myself but it does not harm to remind the current players that no other local goalkeeper has saved four post-match penalties in a match like I did. For 11 years, there were eight top goalkeepers waiting in the wings to take over from me. Sadly, in modern football there is no competition.”
Eventually, Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Francis Kasaila, on behalf of President Peter Mutharika, sent condolences to the gathering and bereaved family over the death of Chamangwana due to diabetes and gout in Blantyre on Sunday.
Burial took place at Misesa Cemetery in Blantyre.
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