Lawrence Waya was a familiar and popular name on the tongues of football fans in his home country Malawi in the 1980’s due to his dribbling and scoring exploits for both club and country.
So good was Waya that he was often cheered on by opposing fans and at one time some fans even went ahead to nickname him Lule after then Uganda President Yusuf Lule after his exploits during a Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup tournament where he was named best player.
The sixth child of 11 comes from a family rich in sporting talent, with his three brothers having played alongside him in the national team while his sisters played netball.
Waya spoke to CAFOnline on his career which transited from active playing days on the pitch to administration.
CAFOnline.com: How did your family influence your love for sports?
Lawrence Waya: We owe our interest in sports to our parents who were very supportive. George, Harry, Mavuto and myself were footballers while Mary, Ruth, Harriet and Emmie were netballers. As a product of schools football, I started playing at the age of 15. My performance was good enough that national coach Ted Powell selected me into Malawi Schools national team as an 18-year-old. Later, I joined Bata Bullets (now Nyasa Big Bullets) to begin my career alongside my brothers. I was playing off the wing, Harry asfullback and George in goal. I used to combine well with Harry while playing as a number seven. Eventually, all of us also made it into the national team.
What was the feeling like, playing for the national team with your brothers?
It was a good experience but it was never rosy. My elder brothers would encourage me and keep me going even at times when I thought of not attending training after a difficult game when the two of them would shout at me. But that experience helped me to understand that football is a team sport.
Despite playing in a star-studded squad, Malawi was not so lucky to be frequent at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
Apart from the 1984 qualification, we never made it to any other Afcon. But we had done well and won some regional trophies like the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in 1988 and bronze medal at the All Africa Games which were hosted in Kenya in 1987. We also nearly qualified for the Fifa World Cup in 1990, before a 1-0 loss to Egypt in the penultimate match of the group stage but came short at the final hurdle after losing 1-0 to Egypt.
How was your club career out of Malawi?
I had a short stint in the United Arab Emirates. Also, in 1989, scouts from Greek side Olympiakos had come to Kenya to watch me at the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup but I was unable to join them due to transfer hitches. I was also invited to Belgium by Cercle Brugge but they ended up sending me to Elko and another lower league side Rooseeler for trials, a decision I was not happy with. Later, I realised that it was the process of preparing me for a bigger challenge that they decided to send me to lower league teams for trials. I lacked proper guidance to appreciate what was happening and make a right decision.
You wound up your career at Silver Strikers. How did you end up there?
My transfer to Silver Strikers happened towards the end of my playing career after I started a job in Lilongwe. In the early days, I could just train with Silver during the week and over the weekend, jump into a coach to play for Bata Bullets in Blantyre. Eventually, Silver approached Bullets and they released me to join them as a free agent in 1995. It felt strange putting on Silver’s sky blue jersey because I was so accustomed to the red jerseys of Bullets.
After your active playing days, you switched to administration and coaching. How did that go?
Nobody knew that I could make it in coaching until I started working for Football Association of Malawi (Fam) as an Administrative Officer. After retiring from football, I did a few jobs here and there in Blantyre. One time, I saw an advert that Fam was looking for an administration officer, I applied and I was successful during interviews. It was while working for Fam that there arose an opportunity to coach the national schools team which was then bound for a tournament in Zambia and I took it up. When I came back, Fam sent me to the United Kingdom for a Uefa B Coaching License and I was eventually made the U-17 national team head coach.
What are your future plans now in football and beyond?
When you have played at the highest level, as I did, you do not always need to be a coach to contribute to football development. I am ready to serve even as a football instructor. —CAFOnline
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