HARARE – Malawi midfielder Josephy Kamwendo is hoping he will be smiling at the end of the day tomorrow when he leads the Flames in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier against Zimbabwe.
Kamwendo, who goes by the moniker Shakira because of the way he dances away from opponents, returns to the National Sports Stadium (NSS) on Sunday, a venue where he made his name over a decade ago.
Back then, Kamwendo was an exuberant teenager when he starred for CAPS United on their way to winning the 2005 league championship.
Due to his electric and dynamic performances in the Green Machine midfield, Kamwendo was deservedly voted the Soccer Star of the Year at the end of that season.
Up until this day, there is no other foreign national, who has won that award which leaves Kamwendo in a class of his own.
After lighting up the domestic Premiership, Kamwendo quickly caught the attention of South African giants Orlando Pirates and joined the great trek to the Super Diski.
STRANDED: The Malawi delegation spent one-and-a-half hours outside the Harare International Airport arrivals terminal waiting to be picked up by their hosts Zifa after their arrival from Blantyre yesterday. Pic: Freedom Mashava
After touching down at Harare International Airport with his Flames teammates yesterday at midday, Kamwendo said he was excited by his return to Zimbabwe.
“It’s a great feeling and it’s good to be back here again. It has been a while; I’m happy to be back and I’m looking forward to the game on Sunday,” Kamwendo told the Daily News.
“It’s going to be a very emotional return for me but I wanna help my team be on the winning side at the end of the game.
“Zimbabwe will always have a special place in my heart, but this time around I’m on a different mission.
“We are not yet out of the Afcon as we still have a chance to qualify for the finals.”
Kamwendo, who now plays for Mozambique top flight side Desportiva de Maputo, says the NSS will always be a special venue for him as it is where his career blossomed.
“Coming back to the NSS where it all started; I just want to continue where I left off,” he said.
“The last time I was here, I had a successful stay with CAPS United and I hope this time around it will be the same with Malawi.
“The fans know me very well. They know what I can bring to the game; they must just come and enjoy the game.”
With the Warriors sitting top of Group L and needing just four points in their remaining two matches to qualify for Gabon, Kamwendo conceded it will be a tough encounter.
“We are here to fight until the last whistle and we know its’ not gonna be an easy game,” the former TP Mazembe midfielder said..
“We are playing against a very good team. Zimbabwe have a very strong squad but for us, we have been here before and we have done it before. We are here to fight.”
Another former CAPS United player, Gerald Phiri Jr, is also in the Flames squad which arrived yesterday.
Phiri Jr also enjoyed some memorable moments at the NSS before joining South African side Bidvest Wits and is looking forward to tomorrow’s match.
“It’s a great feeling to be back here. Zimbabwe is like a second home for me so I‘m just happy to be back and to see some familiar faces,” Phiri Jr said.
“It’s going to be a great feeling to step out onto the NSS. I remember scoring some great goals there for CAPS and hopefully on Sunday (tomorrow) I can score more great goals for my country.”
Phiri Jr said the pressure will be on the Warriors as the home crowd will be expecting nothing short of victory.
“Obviously, we have to win; Zimbabwe is under pressure to qualify and we can be party poopers,” he said.
“We hope to go out and play our best on Sunday to win the match.
“Of course, we are also under pressure to win but it’s different from Zimbabwe; the Warriors’ fans want the team to qualify so they will be under a lot of pressure.”