The most glittering dream me and my peers had throughout childhood was to board a plane and enjoy floating thousands of metres in the sky. I realised it in 1997 when I travelled on an Air Malawi plane to Namibiaâ€™s capital Windhoek via Johannesburg.
I was with the Flames on a tour of duty as a fresh-faced rookie journalist to cover a Cosafa Castle Cup match. I was then working as sports reporter for the Daily Times. Gracian Tukula, who is now one of my several bosses at Nation Publications Limited, was also on that trip.
The then Flames vice-captain John Maduka sat next to me and perhaps realising it was my maiden flight, he got witty of me and pulled a fast one just 30 minutes after we took off at Chileka International Airport: â€œGarry where is that little piece of paper left of your boarding pass?â€ I told him that I had thrown it away.
â€œAkutsitsatu a inspector akamayendela!â€ All of a sudden my shirt was soaked in sweat, knees feeling weak and my heart almost thumping out of my chest.
Well, the day of the match came and the late Ganizani Masiye was in goals for the Flames. I stood right behind his goal posts, taking pictures with my toy camera. The Namibians were simply in magnificent form that afternoon. My beloved Flames were swept aside with contemptuous ease by a man called Eliphas Shivute.
I still vividly remember when Shivute danced past the Flames defence, heading towards Flamesâ€™ goal and Ganizani said: â€œEeeeh! Mphwanga chikubweranso chirombo chija!â€ And, indeed Shivute scored. In the moment of sheer confusion, Masiye asked me: â€œAaaah chalowanso mphwanga?â€
Apparently, that was to be Masiyeâ€™s last game of his distinguished 10-year service to the Flames, including when the Flames qualified for the 1989 East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup in Uganda.
Masiye was also the substitute to the late Donnex Gondwe, when the Flames won the same tournament the previous year. I was in touch with him until his death over a week ago. Well, the â€˜Cool Catâ€™ is no more, but probably we can find solace in that his son, Phillip, is also a promising midfielder for the Flames.
To God be the glory! Uloliwe.. Uloliwe wayidudula hi..nangâ€™esiza! [The train is pushing!]