Two years ago goalkeeper Richard Chimbamba was loaned out to Ntopwa FC for him to have more game time as he was not guaranteed a place in the department that already had two top goalkeepers at Nyasa Big Bullets.
To others, moving to the newly-promoted side then was the end of the road for the 22-year-old shot stopper, but in actual sense, it was the beginning of what would be a successful journey with Malawi’s biggest team.
Today, Chimbamba has turned into Bullets’ first-choice ‘keeper after he took the mantle from Rabson Chiyenda and Ernest Kakhobwe, who had both picked up injuries earlier this season.
His heroic saves against Ekwendeni Hammers, Blue Eagles and a fantastic performance during Bullets’ 1-0 defeat to Silver Strikers just proved how good Chimbamba has turned out to be for The People’s Team.
But what has been his key secret? What is going right for him this season and what is leading to these performances? We caught up with the goalkeeper.
“At this moment, let me thank God for whatever is happening to me this season. When I left Bullets for Ntopwa FC, others thought that was the end of me, but I told myself to man up, perform and to prove to everyone outside there that I was good.
“Ntopwa gave me confidence to perform well. I had to accept the new challenge and I gave it all throughout my stay at Ntopwa and I wasn’t surprised when my head coach [Kalisto Pasuwa] at Bullets gave me a chance to stay after the expiry of my loan deal,” said Chimbamba.
Keeping Blue Eagles at bay for 90 minutes before producing a stunning save that inspired Bullets to that crucial win, Chimbamba said he was tormented with how Eagles attacked, but what motivated him to keep performing was the fact that his club needed three points to remain in contention for the title.
“Our game against Blue Eagles was very crucial. They kept on attacking our goal area and from the word go I knew I was in for a tough ride, but I kept on telling myself to keep on pushing and come out top. I was very happy with the last minute save which granted us all the three points.
“I was very happy to see people celebrating at the end of the match and to spice up my week, I produced another good performance against Ekwendeni Hammers. We were second on the ball and we played under pressure, but we won the match with some series of saves. Whenever I contribute to our victory, I feel honoured.”
But is he finding the going so easily in the current season?
“There was a game against Wanderers, of course it was my first Blantyre derby to get involved and trust me, I was very nervous. I couldn’t sleep but after conceding the first goal, I had to stay strong to perform for the team. The threat wasn’t that much big but our game against Wanderers is the biggest in the land so I had to be at my level best to try to get something for the team on that day.”
Chimbamba, who has kept nine clean sheets for Bullets against Mzuzu Warriors, Mighty Tigers, Mafco FC, Ekwendeni Hammers (twice), TN Stars (twice), Blue Eagles and Ntopwa, does not hide what he is eyeing, a place in the national team at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations next year.
“I am looking forward to playing for the national team next year at Afcon. I don’t want to relax, I want to do better so that I would be able to convince the national team coach that I am capable of playing for my country at the Afcon next year. With the support that I am receiving from my coaches at Bullets, I am very optimistic that I will continue developing into a very good goalkeeper.”
The shot stopper, who was a marvel to watch when his side lost to the Central Bankers last month, said conceding in the 90th minute was very painful but he said that’s how football is.
“I tried my level best not to concede against Silver Strikers and I really wanted the game to end goalless before they scored and it was very painful to concede in the 90th minute. It was something I couldn’t take but after some time I had to move on and focus on the next games.
“Of course it’s my wish to continue keeping clean sheets for the team so that we remain in contention for the title. I just want us to defend the league so that I should be able to win something with my club.”
In his first game of the season, Chimbamba came on for the injured Chiyenda in the 5th minute on 17 January and since then has been manning goal posts for the 14-time Super League champions.
During his stay at Ntopwa, the goalkeeper won several Man of the Match accolades as he won some games for the rookies with his outstanding performances to convince Pasuwa that he was now ready to compete for a place at Bullets.