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The Muhamad Sulumba gamble

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The domestic player transfer market was, until Monday at 1:1 pm, full of whispers over low-key transfers that failed to inspire, let alone leave jaws dropping.

Gems Levison Maganizo and Brighton Munthali found new jobs at Silver Strikers, Rafik Namwela and Ernest Tambe strolled to Lali Lubani Road from Wizards, whereas Civo United’s Emmanuel Zoya and John Lanjesi, for once, gave a serious thought to Big Bullets’ overtures.

Then came the arrival of Muhamad Sulumba at Atmosphere Club in Blantyre during the launch of Big Bullets/ Nyasa Manufacturing Company’s business partnership.

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Necks twisted and glances flashed from all angles at the sight of the burly former Wanderers striker, Sulumba—like a lamb– offering himself up for unveiling alongside Lanjesi, Zoya and Ernest Kakhobwe (from Azam Tigers) as Bullets’ pre-contract signings. The four were clad in Bullets-branded T-shirts.

“You may not be able to interview them as they have just signed pre-contracts,” Bullets vice-general secretary, Kelvin Moyo, who must have first come into contact with Sulumba five years ago when he was a mere Machinjiri social team player, told a swarm of sports reporters.

It was a dramatic U-turn of happenings as Wanderers, through general secretary, Mike Butao, were the first to request parent club, Blantyre United, for Sulumba’s permanent transfer.

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Perhaps, Bullets were smarter, decisive and faster. Maybe, Wanderers did not see much value in Sulumba.

“If Sulumba does not sign for us, it will not be due to a lack of effort on our part, but because Blantyre United did not want the player to sign for us,” Butao suggested after Bullets also wrote United requesting Sulumba’s transfer.

Sulumba, who has a goal in three Flames games, told Malawi News two weeks ago that he was undecided. The indecision should have been enough to jolt Wanderers into action.

So, why should we be talking about a striker who has never been a big hit at any level, and at his age, does not seem to be one for the future?

United technical chairperson, Lawson Nakoma, praised Sulumba as a complete striker with “good height, strength, good in the air and on the ground, left and right—and he does not drink.”

Bullets saw something better in Sulumba, who finished as Wanderers’ top league scorer with six goals (four from headers) despite having spent two months in South Africa training with Jomo Cosmos.

All good strikers have audacity (an inherent belief that they are invincible), skill (an ability to score in multiple ways), composure (the ability to finish one’s chances when under pressure), competitiveness and work rate, movement off the ball, strength and speed.

From such qualities, Sulumba meets half of them. He has the work rate, but not the composure, speed but not skill, work-rate, but not competitiveness. Butao believes Sulumba was a misfit at the Lali Lubani Road.

Even with these shortfalls, there are few strikers capable of scoring through headers domestically, and his big frame and aggression makes him a rare breed on the domestic soccer scene.

Butao acknowledges that Sulumba, with crosses flowing from the likes of Dalitso Sailesi, McFarlen Ngwira and Fischer Kondowe, might turn out to be a big hit at Bullets.

“He was with us, but we still struggled for goals. Sulumba will be successful at Bullets because they play crosses. They will play him to his strength. We wish him well, but we have no regrets,” Butao insisted.

Wanderers may soon appreciate that football can sometimes be about first things first. Bullets gain, might be Wanderers’ loss.

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