From pros­ti­tutes to pas­tor

Kick Off - - FEATURE -

Men­tion the name Chancy Gondwe to any­one who watched him dur­ing his play­ing days and they will start sali­vat­ing in ad­mi­ra­tion of his abil­i­ties. But be­hind that tal­ent was a flawed char­ac­ter who, in his own words, be­came an al­co­holic and a wom­an­iser that also reg­u­larly slept with pros­ti­tutes, fa­thered four kids with dif­fer­ent moth­ers and be­came des­ti­tute. He has since be­come a re­formed char­ac­ter and is a pas­tor back home in Malawi. He spoke to KICK OFF’s Love­more Moyo.

You could see within the first 10 min­utes of watch­ing Chancy Gondwe just how gifted he was as a foot­baller. He was blessed with a crisp first touch and an im­mac­u­late abil­ity to pass both short and long with the out­side of his foot from any po­si­tion on the pitch.

The proof to how good he was came from the way he fit­ted in at Mamelodi Sun­downs after ar­riv­ing from Malawi’s flag­ship club Bata Bul­lets in April 1993 just a few games into the sea­son, back in the days when do­mes­tic foot­ball was played on a full cal­en­dar year.

In Malawi he was al­ready wor­shipped hav­ing spent nearly a decade at Bul­lets, winning over a dozen tro­phies. But un­for­tu­nately, be­hind all the tal­ent on the field lived a flawed char­ac­ter who failed to han­dle all the fame he en­joyed in his prime.

“Most of the times I just didn’t even un­der­stand my­self why I did all the bad things in my life,” re­calls Gondwe. “It was like I was pos­sessed by some evil spirit that I didn’t know. I was naïve. As a lit­tle boy I spent some years liv­ing in the ru­ral ar­eas, then left my par­ents’ home when I was 16 to join Bul­lets in Blantyre.”

Gondwe is so forth­com­ing and cap­ti­vat­ing in the way he talks as he reg­u­larly mixes it up with Chichewa and isiZulu in his English, which is spo­ken with a heavy Malaw­ian ac­cent.

“I was al­ready drink­ing when I came to South Africa be­cause I came to town to join Bata Bul­lets when I was still young. Com­ing to town [Blantyre] changed my liv­ing be­cause I was not stay­ing with my par­ents, so I had no di­rec­tion what­so­ever.

“Then when I came to South Africa the dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion in my life be­came worse. What helped me in South Africa is that I was a good player, other­wise I wouldn’t have even lasted a year,” he con­fesses.

‘I was robbed’

Gondwe is set to launch a book named ‘Chancy Vinny Gondwe and the un­told history of Malaw­ian foot­ball’, writ­ten by Reuben Chilera, which de­tails his ca­reer and the life he lived.

Was money the root of all evil in his trou­bles in South Africa?

“It [money] was bet­ter but not so much be­cause though I didn’t earn much in Malawi, I en­joyed a lot of priv­i­leges be­cause after games fans bought me beer, busi­ness­men gave me money and gro­ceries, while fans al­ways had bas­kets full of food­stuffs and money for me. I was a hero.

“When I ar­rived at Sun­downs I was paid R2,600 per month and had to take out money for ac­com­mo­da­tion, so it was like liv­ing hand-to-mouth, even though it

was in­creased be­fore the end of the year be­cause of how well I was play­ing.

“I heard ru­mours that the best paid player was Phil Masinga on R12,000, fol­lowed by Ernest Mtawali, Sizwe Mo­taung and the likes. When I came to South Africa, I didn’t have a man­ager [agent], so I was robbed in a lot of ways in a new coun­try.

“The trou­ble is that when I got to South Africa, I con­tin­ued with what I was do­ing in Malawi but here there were a lot of beau­ti­ful women. For the first time in my life, I saw five women walk­ing to­gether and all of them were beau­ti­ful and I didn’t know which one to go for.

“I must give credit to [ex Sun­downs of­fi­cial] Natasha Tsich­las for be­ing like a mother to me and try­ing all she could to give me di­rec­tion all the time, even though I was naughty. When­ever I wanted some­thing to drink, I would go to her and claim that my father is sick in Malawi and I need money.

“She would then im­me­di­ately say, ‘I know that your father is not sick, and you just want money for some­thing else, so I will not give you much, but just R500’. She gave me di­rec­tion, but I failed,” ad­mits Gondwe.

The famed bright lights of the night life in Jo­han­nes­burg sucked the Malaw­ian in as well.

“I met some other Malaw­ians who were happy to hang with me and even when I did bad things like miss­ing train­ing, none of them could bring me to or­der. They were just happy to be next to me be­cause they knew I had ex­tra money for drink­ing and go­ing out for magosha [pros­ti­tutes].

“All those Malaw­ians that I was hang­ing with were not telling me the truth. I went to all the dirty night clubs in Hill­brow, where after drink­ing you would buy a woman. I was pop­u­lar with the ladies of the night. That type of life was ter­ri­ble be­cause it af­fects you as a sports­man.

“Mar­i­juana was not re­ally so much of my habit be­cause I only smoked when I found oth­ers smok­ing. What crip­pled my life was al­co­hol and women. I never fought with any­one, but I could drink my life away. It even reached a point when I wanted to com­mit sui­cide by drink­ing al­co­hol.

“I bought a crate of Black La­bel quarts and fin­ished it, but I was still sober. Some­times I don’t be­lieve that I am now ap­proach­ing 20 years with­out drink­ing. When I see peo­ple drink­ing reck­lessly, I al­ways ad­vise them to stop be­cause I lost a lot of money on al­co­hol and wom­an­is­ing. It never takes you any­where,” he warns.

From sleep­ing in a car to train­ing

Gondwe is so in­tense in his rec­ol­lec­tion that he cre­ates vivid pic­tures with the way he talks.

“When you are telling peo­ple, it is like they are watch­ing a movie but that is a true life that I once lived. I know you think this was bad but there are play­ers still do­ing it up to now and one day they will re­gret this kind of life.

“I never had some­one to save me from fall­ing. The old man [the late Ed­die Lewis] at Wits tried to cool me down by giv­ing me the cap­taincy but failed to con­trol me and ended up say­ing I should be given a free clear­ance. He even said, ‘Chancy, I think you need coun­selling’,” re­calls Gondwe.

“I mean at times I would go out to the night club then sleep in my car and from there have my break­fast at Wimpy. After I would then pro­ceed to train­ing in my Mercedes Benz. I am be­ing open be­cause this is my tes­ti­mony, plus I feel free talk­ing to you about this.

“The way I am now and the way I was back then is dif­fer­ent be­cause I now know about life and no­body can cheat me. I be­lieve I have seen it all and that is why I feel play­ers re­ally need to look after their ca­reers be­cause if they don’t then it will all end up a mess like what hap­pened with me,” he says.

Gondwe fa­thered four kids with dif­fer­ent women, with three of them born be­fore he oined Sun­downs.

His first-born child David Chancy Junior (32) is now a pas­tor in Zomba, the sec­ond, Kond­wane (29), works in Li­longwe, while the third Ellen (28) lives in Ire­land. He says his last child that he had was born in South Africa to a woman named Palesa, who had roots in Le­sotho.

The child was named Bokang and Gondwe be­lieves he still lives in Pimville, Soweto.

“I last saw my last-born child when he was maybe about five years old or younger to­wards the end of my time at Wits Univer­sity. I don’t even know how old he is now, and I would re­ally like to find him when next I come to South Africa.

“I would re­ally want to meet him again, even if it takes the tele­vi­sion sta­tion help­ing me to find him. Maybe my for­mer team­mate Marks Maponyane might help. I know the place in Pimville be­cause I used to go there to see his mother.

“The sur­name con­fuses me, but I know that their roots are in Le­sotho. This thing of not know­ing my son is drain­ing me be­cause as long as I am still alive, I should at least be ac­knowl­edged as the father,” he pleads.

‘Why I re­ally left Sun­downs’

Gondwe won the league in his first year (1993) at Sun­downs but was then off­loaded to Wits Univer­sity at the be­gin­ning of the 1997/98 cam­paign as his off-field is­sues be­came a con­cern.

What hurt him was that his move to The Clever Boys – where he played for two sea­sons and was trans­fer-listed in his third year – was done while he was away with the na­tional team, leav­ing him up­set and deep­en­ing the mess that his life had be­come.

“It was all be­cause of the life that I was liv­ing. I left Sun­downs not be­cause I wanted to, but Screamer [ Tsha­bal­ala] had prob­lems with Malaw­ians be­fore like [Cedric] Nakhumwa, the late Love­more Cha­funya and even [Ernest] Mtawali, so I was alone in the end.

“We never had an ar­gu­ment, but I felt he

was side-lin­ing me and then rec­om­mended that I should go to Wits. I only knew about my move from the news­pa­per when I landed at the air­port on my way back from the na­tional team.

“That was when my foot­ball started go­ing astray be­cause of frus­tra­tion. I didn’t pre­pare to leave Sun­downs that way and when I got to Wits, they were play­ing kick and run foot­ball which didn’t help.

“I re­mem­ber ar­gu­ing with Ed­die Lewis when he told me that when­ever I get the ball, I should just kick it down the line and peo­ple will find it. The game was on tele­vi­sion and so I asked him why I should just kick the ball for­ward where there is no one.

“He said I should do as he says be­cause he will send some­one to­wards that space. Then we started ar­gu­ing. So, from there I was just play­ing for for­mal­ity at Wits un­til they gave me a free clear­ance be­cause they couldn’t han­dle what I was do­ing.

“With that free clear­ance I told my­self that be­ing the good player that I am I can still get a team but then I didn’t re­alise that all these clubs com­mu­ni­cate. Ev­ery club that showed in­ter­est was told that I was good but there is a prob­lem and they would hold back,” he re­mem­bers.

Gondwe then re­turned home and had a brief spell with Bul­lets after leav­ing Wits, but it all turned sour as he was now past his best years.

He then re­turned to South Africa, keen to re­vive a ca­reer that was al­ready in the drain and trained with Bloem­fontein Celtic in their first year in the First Di­vi­sion in 2001/02, but never played any games.

End of his ca­reer

He says after leav­ing Wits he sur­vived an at­tempted mur­der while stay­ing with one of his girl­friends in Mamelodi over the is­sue of his Mercedes Benz, which was crashed while be­ing driven by an­other lady he had picked up on one of his drink­ing sprees.

“The gun jammed while point­ing in the di­rec­tion of my head and so that is how I sur­vived, only to find out that the lady that I was stay­ing with had hired those guys to kill me over the Mercedes Benz, which I wanted to drive back to Malawi for a fu­neral.

“I then aban­doned my Mercedes Benz after it crashed into some­one’s house in Mamelodi while be­ing driven by an­other woman be­cause I was drunk in the passenger seat. I had only met that woman where I was drink­ing but I wouldn’t even re­mem­ber her if I was to meet her now.

“I only re­alised after­wards that the woman didn’t know how to drive. She was so beau­ti­ful, but I didn’t know that I had taken an an­gel of death,” he re­lates.

Later, for­mer SAFA CEO Al­bert Mokoena’s ef­forts to re­ha­bil­i­tate Gondwe by giv­ing him a coach­ing job at his club Soweto Pan­thers were un­suc­cess­ful.

“I was drink­ing beer ev­ery day and ended up stay­ing in a shack in Mead­ow­lands Zone 9 when things were com­pletely out of or­der. coached Mokoena’s team but then left his team be­cause my life was com­pletely gone stay­ing in an umkhukhu.

“I had be­come a s’boto (va­grant). It was then that God started talk­ing to me and telling me that I should go back to Malawi. could hear God speak to me, even when I was in that drunken state.

“I just had to come back with only a bag of my clothes and took a bus from Jo­han­nes­burg to Malawi. It came to a point where I just said I had to go back be­cause noth­ing was work­ing out for me. I tried so many things and failed.

“I stopped eat­ing and was just drink­ing un­til I be­came sick. The body was chang­ing be­cause I was not even sleep­ing. The time when I knew that I was sick was when I was partly paral­ysed be­cause of stress.

“When I came back home, I went to the doc­tor and they put me on a ma­chine to check if all is well with me and they found that I had a prob­lem in my brain caused by stress and al­co­hol abuse.

“By the Grace of God, I have since re­cov­ered and can run again. What hurts me the most is that there are still play­ers liv­ing that reck­less life driv­ing nice cars and look­ing for women ev­ery day.

“I don’t wish for any­one to make the same mis­takes that I made so that is why I am com­ing out in the open now. I have to meet these play­ers just to tell them that there is need to re­spect your ca­reer,” he points out.

After wast­ing the op­por­tu­nity handed by Mokoena, he re­lo­cated to Alexan­dra where he was of­fered free ac­com­mo­da­tion by a fel­low coun­try­man and then moved to work as a brick­layer in Tem­bisa. By the time he re­turned home he was sickly and a de­feated man.

Back home there were is­sues, he did not at­tend his father’s fu­neral but was able to mend the re­la­tion­ship with his mother in the ru­ral ar­eas where he sold a cow in or­der to raise the R1,000 needed to en­rol for a Diploma in The­ol­ogy at As­sem­blies of God School of The­ol­ogy in Li­longwe to set him on the path to be­ing a pas­tor.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.