Some people deserve better. But the ‘better’ at times seems elusive.
I was about 12 and staying in Blantyre’s Kanjedza Township when I grew serious interest in soccer.
Kanjedza was a mini Brazil, with soccer a strong religion. Kanjedza Primary School ground was the ‘Wembley’ of that time. Every weekend, youth teams from within Kanjedza either faced each other or set out to meet outfits from around Blantyre.
In the centre of this whole context was one administrator whose abilities I still cherish. This guy is Basiyano Bauleni, the short and hairy man who was a mere ‘little-earning’ tailor supplementing his income by selling freezes.
He operated from a modest square shop by day, and by night turned it into a bedroom which he shared with his siblings he was supporting.
But the limited resources were not a matter to cut short Bauleni’s love for soccer or his urge to help budding talents. He owned a well-known Under 14 soccer outfit called Bauns United.
This humble outfit gave a chance for some Malawi’s celebrated players to either build or sharpen skills. These include Jimmy Zakazaka, Moses Chavula, Nyadani Billie and Wylie Tembeta.
There were still other talents of my age time that never made it to the big soccer stage, either because of other competing priorities or just the mystery that that shields super talent from realising the dream at top level. These include Nebert Phiri, Mike Likagwa, Kennedy Hassan and Steven Maulidi.
In the afternoon soccer talent would meet at Kanjedza Primary School to receive direction from Bauleni the coach.
To run such a costly an endeavour as a soccer team, Bauleni would plough extra hours into tailoringor get crafty with his begging bowl. He had his many needs, it was obvious, but serving the youth was his passion that came first.
Many were the times he sacrificed his very last tambala. During camp before crucial games, most players would fill his abode for the night. Being a good mobiliser he was, Bauleni would run around and come back to camp hauling food and other crucial possessions.
Bauleni’s’ reputation grew both on paper and on the pitch for the mentor was good with kids. He was friendly but tough, patient and tactical. Most kids around Blantyre wanted to play for his team.
At some point, Maggie Chombo, the celebrated lady footballer, played for Bauns United. I remember how much scepticism surrounded Bauleni’s ability to handle a young lady and give her the right seat among young adolescent boys.
But Bauleni rose above the tide of doubt and contributed to Maggie’s rise.
Good talents all over the city would choose Bauns over outfits that had plenty resource such as minibuses to ferry them to matches.
Even parents around Blantyre trusted Bauleni with their kids because he struck a good balance between education and soccer.
Isn’t it a very nice thing Bauleni can look back at his painful investment and tell how it sculpted players as good as Moses Chavula and Jimmy Zakazaka?
Today, you would have expected Bauleni to be ‘somewhere’ comfortable. It would have been the sweetest thing to have him practice his sculpture on a bigger platform. He still has the passion. But the world has not given back to him the best that can happen.
He is a resource that could have been identified and supported heavily. We need such people like him to tell their story and inspire another generation that can sacrifice souls for Malawi soccer.
Bauleni’s story can shape the way for the future. I will tell more next week. n