What stood out for me when the Malawi national football team (the Flames) ended the then African champions Egypt’s two-year unbeaten run with a 1-0 win in 2008 in a joint 2010 Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifier, was a young fan who invaded Kamuzu Stadium pitch almost in his birthday suit.
As he celebrated Flames’ glorious moment, while waving a Malawian flag, he proved that the game of football is indeed a celebration of life.
As this fella danced, others threw coach Kinnah Phiri in the air while chanting ‘Kinnah yemweyo kuti wa! wa! wa!’ as other naughty fellows took advantage of the occasion to pinch the coach’s Samsung mobile phone. Kinnah realised too late that his phone had grown wings.
Well, I learnt last Sunday, during the 2013 Afcon final between Nigeria and Burkina Faso, that Mbewe is now in Johannesburg where he earns a living from piecework.
He was there at Soccer City on Sunday night, and again he attempted to invade the pitch only in his tattered underwear. Unfortunately for him, this was not Kamuzu Stadium. His attempts were thwarted by alert security.
But what stood out for me in Mbewe was his passion for the game and indeed his country Malawi.
He joined the multitude of Nigerian fans that were singing prior to the game, he did not understand what they were singing, but that did not matter on the night because he was there for football. He was there to pour out his emotions and explore his passion for the game. He was there to have fun, to indulge his passion and enjoy the sights and sounds of a buzzing stadium as he proudly waved his Malawian flag.
His beloved Flames had failed to deliver him that prized package as, once again, they had come so close and yet so far by bowing out at the last hurdle against Ghana’s Black Stars.
But somehow, it has not betrayed his love for the game and his Flames. The Flames were not part of the African showpiece in South Africa, but Mbewe was there to provide the fun as he danced only in his red tattered underwear and was the centre of attraction.
And as Mbewe’s iconic image replayed itself in my mind, I wondered if there is a breed of cheerful people on the continent than those from the Warm Heart of Africa and Mbewe, in particular.
I wondered whether the Flames will give out something extra and reward this patriotic fella by at least qualifying for the 2015 Afcon finals. I thought all the poor Malawian would ask for from his beloved team would be to qualify for the next event. All the same, thanks to Standard Bank and OG Plastic Industries for the fun I had during my tour of duty at the 2013 Afcon.
Thanks for the sights and sounds in Mzansi, it felt so good to relax in the comfort of the magnificent five-star rooms at Morning Side in Sandton. To God be the glory. Uloliwe, Uloliwe Wayidudula ning’esiza ha! [The train is pushing).