LIFE after football can be very cruel for most players in Malawi. Stories of destitution among some of the best talents ever to have graced the country’s stadiums are common. Players themselves have largely taken the blame for failing to plan ahead. Critics have pointed at extravagant and reckless lifestyles among the players as another contributing factor.
Suggested solutions like preparing the players for life after football, how to manage their finances or employing managers to keep their lives in check, have been thrown into the picture. But not all players find themselves destitute because of recklessness or poor planning.
It is called fate which so often cannot be avoided. Former Big Bullets goalkeeper Trust Lunda falls into this category. The agile goalkeeper hung up his gloves six years ago but the going has been tough because of ill health.
Birth of football career Lunda’s journey started in earnest in 1999 when he joined the then Dwasco Football Club after playing for Nkhotakota Medicals, Nkhotakota Admarc and Nkhotakota Rangers. He was at Dwasco for five years before moving to Bakili Bullets (now Nyasa Big Bullets) in 2003 after impressing officials of the People’s Team during a Super League match.
“On that day, I had a grand game when we played Bullets at MDC Ground in Blantyre. The game ended 1-1 after my brilliant performance in goals denied Bullets victory. After the game, Bullets officials approached me to join the team and that is how I found myself at Bullets,” recalls the 31-year-old Lunda.
He says the going was never easy at Bullets as he found himself fighting for the first team jersey with highly-rated goalkeepers like Swadick Sanudi and Navigator Dzinkambani. “At that time, Swadick was the first choice goalkeeper while Navigator played second fiddle. My joining enhanced competition and I eventually took up Navigator’s position,” Lunda explains.
He recalls that Bullets were then competing in the Caf Champions League and Sanudi cemented his position with outstanding performances. Lunda recalls that his chance to shine eventually presented itself in a friendly game against Tanzania’s Simba Sports Club. It was a chance that he grabbed with both hands to prove to the then coach Kinnah Phiri that he was equally good and could be called upon at any time.
Lunda, then a dreadlocked star although not a rasta, said he enjoyed life at Bullets when the team was bankrolled by former President Bakili Muluzi. That time, the club used to provide everything for the players.
Lunda, who won two Super League titles and the Embassy Cup with Bullets, says he does not regret joining Bullets as the team accorded him the opportunity to play for the country’s junior and senior national teams. Beginning of tough times Things took a bad turn after Muluzi stopped bankrolling Bullets.
Lunda could not stand the resultant financial woes at the club and quit the team in 2011. He trekked to South Africa and Swaziland in search for greener pastures. But things did not work out for him in the two countries and he decided to head back home in 2013 to venture into agribusiness. After keeping away from the spotlight for several years, Lunda was in the news in 2015 after being hospitalised for a toe ailment on his foot. When the condition worsened, doctors at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe amputated the toe.
“I just started feeling pain on the toe and I was told it was an unknown disease,” he says. Lunda was then discharged from the hospital and continued doing his businesses, only to return to the hospital a year later with another ailment; this time on his left leg, which had never troubled him before.
“That day I sat outside my house and, suddenly, I just started feeling severe pain in the left leg. I was taken to Nkhotakota District Hospital where I was referred to Kamuzu Central Hospital. The condition did not improve and the leg developed sores. Within a week, doctors amputated my leg,” Lunda says.
The development has reduced Lunda to a ‘house husband’. The father of four only relies on his wife who works at Nkhotakota District Hospital as a midwife assistant. “Life is really tough. I can no longer do my businesses as I used to. As head of the house, I need to provide for the family but now I just stay at home all day. Life is now painful,” he says.
Lunda says he did not benefit much from playing football. “I only enjoyed for a short period when Bullets was being sponsored by Muluzi. But the money I got that time was not enough to invest in something meaningful,” Lunda laments.
Lunda appeals to well wishers to assist him acquire an artificial limb to ease his mobility challenges, saying he was disappointed that former players continue being snubbed by football authorities.
“Imagine no Bullets official has ever called to check on my progress. I only hear from the radio about the formation of a players’ welfare body. I hope such entities will prioritise former players like me who are challenged physically,” he says.
An Anglican Church member, Lunda’s trust is in God. He hails from Makuta village in Traditional Authority Malengachanzi in Nkhotakota.