John Banda: Police officer -cum-Flames star

As an obedient police officer, no doubt, he has taken heed of the reversal of the shoot-to-kill order. There can be no pretence, though, that he is restraining himself on the football pitch.

Lilongwe Police Station sub-inspector John Banda has not stopped pulling the trigger on the pitch, firing at dangerous opponents such as Kenya, Nigeria and Chad.

In three attempts, only one opponent, Nigeria, has survived. And that the Super Eagles flapped back to Lagos alive is all due to coach Kinnah Phiri’s delayed introduction of the Blue Eagles man in this World Cup qualifier.

“There was no way he was going to stop that shot,” Banda declared at Kamuzu Stadium on June 9 2012 after saving the Flames from being preyed on by the Eagles.

Thrown into full combat in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, John Banda wasted no time in giving Chad the bullet, gliding past road blocks on the right, cutting inside, with his weaker left foot shooting into the net. His cause further fuelled by a matching wicked deflection.

Malawi was on its way to victory, its first in all games this since last November when they beat Kenya at the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Tanzania.

2 goals in 2 games

Need reminder of how he scored in that 2-0 dimming of the Harambee Stars? It was, of course, this sub-inspector notorious with the trigger.

And, by the way, in scoring on his Flames debut during the Tanzania tournament, it was the case of John emulating big brother Frank of Silver Strikers who, too, scored on his Flames debut in 2-1 beating of Rwanda at Kamuzu Stadium in 2010.

Like his elder brother, his preferred position is in attacking midfield. But since the brothers are blessed with skill in either foot, they can play in any position stationed by the master improviser, Kinnah.

“I personally feel he [John Banda] is even better playing as an attacking midfielder than on the wing,” argued coach Alex Masanjala of Civo.

The football story for the Bandas start in their home village Kayimika in T/A Malengamzoma’s area in Nkhata Bay, where the two of the seven children of a teacher simply never knew how to stop playing football from primary schools days at Chikwina FP School.

“Frank was so obsessed with football, but for the young brother, it was the case of being brainy in class and equally excellent in football,” recalled a childhood friend.

Frank, then, populary known as Buju was making his football presence highly felt at 18 Strikers, a popular football entity in Chikwina, Nkhata Bay. Then, the young brother then known as ‘Katiwa’ was following the older’s football steps, sometimes even bettering them.

As John successfully wound up his secondary education with a Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE), his football career was finally taking off the ground after the big move to the then newly promoted Nkhata Bay Police, renamed Eagle Strikers.

Come back kid

As Eagle Strikers disappeared from the football scene following their relegation, John’s career was making a giant leap to Blue Eagles in 2010. And within two seasons, the Nankhaka side was marching to the winners podium to hoist the 2011 Standard Bank Cup trophy.

The arrival to the big time of Malawi football was getting better and better for John, who was to be decorated as best player of the tournament. There was no way Kinnah was to ignore the boy, who was eventually drafted in the Cecafa-bound squad for 2011, joining Frank, then playing for Civo United.

Now, times have changed. While Frank was glued to the substitutes’ bench for the entire duration of the match against Nigeria, John was stepping in to carry out the well-chronicled injury time Flames rescue mission.

In the Chad game, as John who nicknamed himself CJ after the late Bullets star Christopher John Banda, scored before being hacked down by Chad opponent sick and tired of being rendered useless by this police officer, Frank was brought in to replace him.

It was the similar case at the 2011 Cecafa in Tanzania, where Frank had to be content with brief appearances from the bench while John, who had three goals in 10 games, was working full time.

So, who do they consider better between them?

“I guess Frank views me as better than him and I also view him as better than me,” said John who was born in 1993 and is engaged.

If John was trying to be philosophical in settling the ‘who is better debate’, Frank was true to his name: “With his recent exploits, let us face it, my young brother is getting ahead of me.”

SportsXtra cannot agree more with this frank opinion. In fact, it would not be surprising if John attracts foreign teams. And the good news is that the Malawi Police Service (MPS) Inspector General Lot Dzonzi has assured that they would not stand in his way.

For now, let John concentrate on serving Blue Eagles in cup and Super League games. And with the Flames on break until September, the Nchesi resident has to concentrate working as a general duties police officer at Lilongwe Police Station.

“I have arrested criminals and I can tell you being a police officer is tougher than playing football,” John summed up his dual allegiance.

Call John Banda a man on a double calling to the nation.

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