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The tidy Jide: Jide Mbandambanda

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BLANTYRE United may be one of the strugglers in the TNM Super League but they have some of the brightest and talented players on the local scene. For the 2016 Southern Region Football League Premier Division champions, producing great players in football is not a new phenomenon.

The team is rightfully credited with such talents as Victor Limbani, Tizgobere Kumwenda, Dalitso Sailesi and Mohammed Sulumba.

Having parted ways with such big names after relegation in the 2014 season, Blantyre United fought back two years later to earn promotion with a relatively new crop of players with the hunger to prove that they are good enough to make the grade in the top flight. One of such players is central midfielder, Jide Mbandambanda.

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He is a player who enjoys the task of terrorising defences with his pace and trickery, to score vital goals for his side. Jide is currently fighting for recognition among the best footballers in the country after scoring six goals in the first round of the elite league.

One major highlight of his blossoming football career was scoring a hat-trick for Blantyre United in a match against Azam Tigers midway through the first round. Early days Jide was born on June 12, 1993 and is the last born in a family of three.

He grew up in Mbayani Township, Blantyre, and did his primary education at HHI before finishing his secondary school studies at Nyambadwe Private in the commercial city. Being relatively young and small in stature at the time, Jide found it difficult to play school football and instead joined then Kachere Under 14 Football League side Subaru.

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While still playing for Subaru, Jide recalls that his brother, Gift, left for South Africa and made it as a footballer there. After settling down in the Rainbow Nation, Gift invited Jide to try his luck at several football academies there as he was still very young then.

Gift was convinced that his younger brother had the potential to make it big after getting reports of his talent on the pitch. He made the arrangements to find an academy to accommodate Jide at Moroka Swallows Academy under former Flames defender and captain, Patrick Mabedi.

However, things did not work right away for the young Jide as the season was going to an end. He was advised to wait until January. “My brother did all he could for me to travel to South Africa The tidy Jide JIDE–I wanted to play in the Super League and play for one of the football academies there.

I left Malawi without even playing in Division One of the Southern Region Football Association League.

“Unfortunately, my brother returned home later and I moved in with his friend in Western Cape since I was still young and could not manage to stay alone. I then received a call from Gift, saying he would not be returning to South Africa. This resulted into the flopping of the Swallows deal,” Jide said.

Further attempts to secure a place at Orlando Pirates Academy also failed to bear fruits. Second chance in Western Cape After failing to secure a place at any academy in South Africa for two years, Jide finally reunited with Gift in the Western Cape.

This resulted into another window of opportunity opening through a community club called Knysna Bafana FC. Jide found the going tough during the early days as he was deemed too short and small. For this reason, he was not allowed to play.

After some time, the team’s officials decided to give him a chance by featuring him in goals when there was a shortage of goalkeepers. This angered him and he decided to move to another team called FC United after two months.

“I was frustrated because I knew that it would be hard for me to play for a well-known team. With my height and age, coaches were not as impressed with me though I knew that some of the players were not better than I was. I just spent two months and I thought it wise to move and join FC United. I just trained for a week and they registered me. The team was financially crippled and we were forced to play two matches each time we were away,” Jide said.

One day, Knysna Bafana FC officials saw him playing and recognised him as their former player. The team’s coach immediately came to him, asking for his return.

“There was drama when I returned and was picked to play in the Knysna Bafana-FC match. It was a typical Western Cape derby. The match was delayed for close to 30 minutes as Knysna Bafana officials did not want me to play for FC United, claiming that I had already featured for their team. But eventually, they let me play and we lost 1-0”.

He later decided to quit football after failing to break into the Knsyna Bafana starting lineup. He found himself a job in Mossel Bay to better support his livelihood. Return to Malawi In 2013, Jide decided to come back to Malawi after learning that her mother was staying alone. Upon arrival, he launched his football career with Chinangwa Madrid, now Michiru, before joining Kabula United under Alex Masanjala.

At Kabula, life was not as easy because the team had no sponsorship. After enduring a period of financial difficulties, Jide received a call from some friends in South Africa, asking him to return and take up a job opportunity. He dumped the team and went down South but only stayed there for three months and returned home in 2014.

“I remember telling my brother that I was no longer interested in going back to South Africa because I wanted to play in the Super League. I started training with Blantyre United on Greyson Phiri’s invitation. I was signed immediately. I was always on the bench and sometimes I was not picked at all for almost six games.

This other time we travelled to Nkhotakota to face Airbone Rangers and Mafco. I was selected to start against Airborne. I enjoyed my debut and we won 3-2. The following day I was on the bench and was introduced after 25 minutes in the second half. But unfortunately, we lost 4-1,” Jide said.

Super League exit and return Jide found himself in the lower league after Blantyre United were relegated, owing to their bottom finish. He then joined the defunct Epac FC after being invited by coach Leo Mpulula. He played there for a season and moved on to Max Bullets but did not sign for the Chiradzulu-based side.

He continued his club-hunting and found himself at Tigers where he sustained an injury in the 2016 pre-season. This resulted into the technical panel deciding against offering him a contract. During the second round of that season, he joined Wizards FC where he featured in a few games.

After Blantyre United earned their return to the Super League, the coaching panel decided to recall Jide. He is currently enjoying his game and is among Blantyre United’s outstanding players at his club.

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