Mkwalula: football and music maestro

There is nothing peculiar with a bird singing sweet melodies, but when a bird effortlessly soothes hearts with its vocal cords and also with its reflexes between the football goalposts, this can only be extraordinary stuff.

Well, for Malawi goalkeeping legend of the 1970s, Clement ‘Chimbalame’ Mkwalula, football and music were/are so synonmous with his life that he has no clue which one facilitated the other.

He earned the moniker after releasing his MBC chart-climbing single titled Chimbalame while in secondary school at Henry Henderson Institute (HHI) in 1976.

“I must have learnt football in school, but I do not remember being taught music. It has always been in me. I once did ‘instrumentals’ for the late Robert Fumulani’s original hit of Mulomowu and he did the vocals,” said the man when he voluntarily visited Nation offices on Thursday.

And as Hardware Stars, whose training base was a stone’s throw away from HHI, signed him after getting wind of his goalkeeping exploits, Chimbalame name found its more relevant meaning.

Mkwalula, whose brothers Felix and Erick were also established footballers of the 1970s and 1980s, was a fresh-faced HHI student when team manager, the late Dumbo Lemani, snapped him for Hardware Stars in 1976.

‘Injury was blessing in disguise’

The young man, whose strong senior school certificate was to earn him a sales job with Hardware Stores, did not walk straight into the Hardware Stars’ star-studded starting XI.

“But the injury misfortune of first-choice goalkeeper John Harold Kateya turned out to be my blessing. I manned the posts on our way to Press Cup championship after beating Yamaha Wanderers at Kamuzu Stadium in 1977,” he recalled.

Despite establishing himself at Hardware, the team recruited highly rated John Dzimbiri, who cost Mkwalula a place.

Mkwalula thought the grass was greener at newly formed Admarc Tigers that had the likes of Jonathan Billie, Sosten Zakazaka, Collins Kondowe, Bakili Mughogho, Chapman Munthali, Prince Nyirenda and Francis Mzembe.

It did not take long before his dual competence in the two disciplines coexisted in inspiring fashion. His football career soared to great heights at Tigers. By close of the 1980s, Tigers had won the Blantyre and Districts Football League championship, a passport for the newly born side to represent the country at the Cecafa Championship.

Born from the almalgation of Admarc depots’ football teams, Tigers wasted no time in imposing itself on the domestic football psyche. And so did Mkwalula.

Lazy Farmer hit

As Mkwalula’s hit titled Lazy Farmer made its mark on an LP for Columbine Record Company in the United States in 1981, the following year, he was hitting football headlines with Tigers.

He was voted the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) Club championship best player in Zanzibar where the Kau Kau lost 1-0 in the final to Kenya’s AFC Leopards.

Tigers were the first Malawian side to reach Cecafa Cup final.

Mkwalula’s Zanzibar exploits paved the way for his national team call-up.

After successful national team appearances, Mkwalula, born on July 19 1955, took his career to Swaziland’s Manzini Wanderers on coach/player Kinnah Phiri’s recommendation.

He hardly lasted a season at Manzini as he aggravated a knee injury that cut short his playing career before he made his mark as a coach at modest Hlambanyatsi Rovers.

Mkwalula, now father of three, guided the backwater football side Rovers from second to first division to earn him Swaziland Coach of the Year Award.

He said, on recommendation of his brothers, he returned home in 1992 to look after his property such as houses. With that, the man who has B and C coaching licences, put his football on a back seat.

“I simply do not have time, but I am able to release solo albums with the first done in Country and Western hitting the shelves in 1990, followed by another one in 2006. I was born a musician. I can also produce and write songs,” said Mkwalula who comes from Gomani Village, in T/A Mlumbe’s area in Zomba.

In case you think music and football define the life of the man, you may be pleased to learn that it is a different career that puts bread and butter on his table—screen printing. Based in Zomba, he is managing director of Talimba Screen Printers.

“I learnt this trade in Swaziland,” he says fishing out his certificate. “My company won gold category certificate of Geneva 2006 Awards.”

Well, setting records in a variety of disciplines is something we have to get so used to about this man.

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