From a villain to MOTM against Blue Eagles – Yamikani Mologeni’s coming of age

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On toes, the minuscule right-back steps towards the penalty spot and calms his tits, but when he strikes the ball from the spot, he sees the ball blazing over the bar. And instantly, Yamikani Mologeni goes down the Kamuzu Stadium turf heartbroken and engulfed by the sheer disappointment of missing a decisive penalty kick in the FDH Bank Cup round-of-32 tie.

This is in 2019 and his side, Nyasa Big Bullets Reserves, following his penalty miss, are denied a historic triumph over their seniors Nyasa Big Bullets.

Today, speaking to club media, the now Nyasa Big Bullets Reserves captain recalls being down in the dumps during this moment. As he opens up, he dreads the thoughts of going back to the dressing room, fearing he was braced for a rollicking from the coach and his team members for letting them down.

“I was a deeply distressed man when I missed the penalty against the main team last year. It was the penalty which could have helped my side to win. It was a miss that condemned my team to a painful exit in the FDH Bank Cup,” he recalls.

Although there was some little inveighing from his teammates back in the dressing room, his coach Enos Chatama was on his side, telling him that it was not the end of the world that he missed the penalty. Nonetheless, getting backing from Chatama did not easily dust away his guilt complex as he went home making himself a punching bag for turning into a villain at the big moment.

“When I went home, I was still a distressed person that I couldn’t sleep that night. I was always thinking of the penalty miss which happened in front of a big crowd. Everybody knew that Yamikani Mologeni has missed a decisive penalty,” he explains.

It took time for Mologeni to shake off this moment of mistake. Still beating himself for this regrettable time, his game subsequently started to dip in form as confidence vanished from him.

“My performance was shaken thereafter. It was on and off.  It took a lot of time to make myself start playing as better as I used to, but I thank my coach who kept pushing me to rediscover my form. He could give me examples of great players around the world who also missed decisive penalties and yet managed to bounce back.”

Inspired by Chatama’s continuous mentoring, Mologeni’s game began to pick up again as the 2021 season was winding up. Aware of his remarkable resurgence and blooming personality, Chatama would make Mologeni captain of his team before the start of this season following the then Reserves captain Innocent Msowoya’s departure for TNM Super League rookies Sable Farming.

13 months after missing the decisive penalty, Mologeni again played in an FDH Bank Cup quarter-final match, and this time against Blue Eagles on August 21 at the Kamuzu Stadium, where he put up a great show to help Bullets Reserves book a place in the semis and scoop the Man of the Match award over the Lilongwe-based Super League outfit.

In the thick of things: Mologeni (in red) against Blue Eagles in the FDH Bank Cup quarterfinal match at Kamuzu Stadium. Photo by Kimpho Loka.

Everything about his performance last Sunday was breathtaking. He may not have gotten himself on the scoresheet nor did he notch a single assist in the tie but his calm and solidness at the back, his essence in the Reserves’ elegant build-ups was simply outstanding from such a young talent.

The offensive right back, who scored 11 goals in all competitions last season and has five already this season, inspired the joy the Reserves found when penetrating down the right-hand side from which their two goals on the day both emerged from.

There was also an air of mellowness that hoovered around the 20-year-old on Sunday. As a captain, in front of thousands of fans that turned up at the Kamuzu Stadium, Mologeni did not shrink from taking responsibility and authority over his youthful teammates. Both with his performance and command.

When ugly scenes popped up following protests by the fans against the assistant referee’s decision to award Blue Eagles a corner kick when the ball seemed not out of play, Mologeni was brave enough to walk towards the angry spectators and pleaded with them to stop throwing objects into the pitch. And the fans calmed down for the game to restart six minutes after. What a courageous young lad!

All square with two minutes to go before the end of stoppage time and the game looking like it was heading for post-match penalties, Bullets Reserves goalkeeper, Rahaman John, at some point got himself in a time-wasting act by going down the turf with the ball in his palms. But at this moment, when many did not imagine that a comeback could be completed, Mologeni was seen shouting at his keeper to pass him the ball quickly. And when the ball was on his feet, Mologeni swiftly initiated a sweeping move which gave birth to our winning goal. What a winning mentality from the lad!

At the final whistle, Mologeni’s overall performance did not go unnoticed by the match officials, who awarded him with the Man of the Match flagship. He might have been the recipient of the prize in the past, but the one he grabbed on Sunday was huge and will be unforgettable for the fullback, who on 26th June last year was the villain for missing a decisive penalty against his seniors at the soccer Mecca.

From being labelled a ‘scoundrel’ last year, Mologeni is now the captain of a happy ship as he has led his youthful team to their first-ever semi-finals spot in a national competition which is commonly known to be elitist.

After a stand-out performance in the quarter-final, Mologeni hopes to replicate his outstanding form when his team faces Central Region League side Extreme FC in the FDH Cup semi-finals.

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