Today, Tuesday, March 29, 2016, the Malawi National Football Team, affectionately known as The Flames by its supporters, will be playing Guinea’s Syli Nationale in the 2017 Gabon Africa Cup of Nations qualifications at the Kamuzu Stadium, Malawi’s football Mecca. It has not been a good campaign for the Flames. They are in the third position in the four member group with two points, trailing Zimbabwe and Swaziland with three points.
With three games played now, it tells of how difficult the task is on us to qualify for the finals. But this has largely been the story with the Flames. They may have lacked a full financial support from government and other stakeholders, but when it comes to people supporting it whenever there is a match, it has always been overwhelming. Unfortunately, they have been abandoned by one of the most important areas of supporting football: Music.
There have been tens of songs on football in Malawi. It goes back to as far as 1970s when the Flames used to be one of the football powerhouses in Africa. We were once at the African Cup on Nations in 1982. We have won the East and Central Africa challenge cup twice, when we used to be members of this football block before going the Confederation of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA). We have reached the finals of the latter’s competition twice.
Recently, we qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola (2010) where we did not fare satisfactorily. But these are isolated achievements in a period of forty years. It exposes our team as minnows as far as regional and continental football is concerned.
Still, who says a team has to be supported only when it is doing well? But the dismal performance of our team has greatly affected the morale of musicians making songs for the Flames. We cannot underrate the importance of music when it comes to supporting a football team.
Everywhere in the world, music is taken as an important part in raising the morale. Every World Cup, for example, has a theme song. Some football clubs and national teams even contract musicians to make songs for their teams. Music acts as the center of all the love and the energy people have towards the club or country they support.
The notable songs for the Flames in Malawi are Bubu Lazy’s 1998 ‘Goletsa Malawi’, Mr. A.K and General KC’s blockbuster, ‘Bola Kunthazi’ in 1999, Saul Chembezi and his anthemic ‘Azisiya’ in 2000. If one looks at the period of these songs, it was when the regional COSAFA competition was well organized and took place every year without fail. The Flames were active in football then.
In addition, that was the time of some of most famous footballers in Malawi, the likes of the current Flames coach, Ernest ‘Wire’ Mtawali, John Maduka, Patrick Mabedi, Chancy ‘Vinny’ Gondwe and Albert ‘Kika’ Mpinganjira, just to mention a few. Their on field skills made most people to fall in love with football.
The musicians saw the energy coming from the people, realized the gap of music and came in to give something to the supporters as they will be in the stands dancing and singing for their teams.
For a decade, there was no notable song for the Flames until Blessings Kamchopwa in 2010 came up with the now famous ‘Idodo Dadada’. This is the song one is likely to hear on the radio stations when the Flames have won a game.
But having a song which was recorded six years ago as the theme song shows how music has abandoned the Flames. There is no love for the team from music. But looking at how important music is to the game of football, perhaps this could be one of the reasons the players have no morale on the ground.
All the songs, before ‘Idodo Dadada’, mentioned the players and it surely made them feel recognized and worked hard for the nation. According to the lifespan of a national team football career, it means a generation of players came and went without even a song being made for them.
There can be money to the players and all the benefits needed for their welfare, but if music is not around, our players are half defeated. We need songs for the Flames, the kind of music the supporters can easily sing along at the matches to give the players an idea of the load they are carrying for the whole nation.
Winning a game is more than what happens on the field. Football unites a nation. If the Flames can qualify, we are guaranteed that for a time we will forget the miseries we are going through and be happy that we have made mark on the continent.
Musicians, we need you!
*Wonderful Mkhutche is an author, a political scientist and a manuscript editor and developer