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Malawi dances to Gabadinho football magic

It is not very often that in a former British colony you have a footballer with a Brazilian name like Gabadinho Mhango.

If they saw him in full flight, ball glued to his feet, even Brazilians would have no qualms that this Malawi football sensation stole their name.

Whether it is scoring hat- tricks or doubles, Gabadinho simply cannot stop banging them in.

The 15 goals in 18 games of all competitions this season sums up the Bullet boy’s amazing story.

He made history by scoring in every one of the four games that turned Bullets into Presidential Cup kings a fortnight ago in Lilongwe.

Bullets beat Moyale Barracks1-0 to bag their first worthwhile trophy since 2005.

Before singlehandedly steering Bullets to the Presidential Cup winners’ podium, Gabadinho had not scored in nine Super League games. He scored two in the 2-0 beating of Azam Tigers last month. Since that game he has never stopped scoring. It was quite a turn of fortunes for the boy who, two years ago, was a mere amateur street footballer in his northern region home village in Chiweta, Rumphi.

Last year, in the early stages of the current Malawi season, the concerns were that, for all his silky skill, he could not put away the chances he used to recklessly create. He could dribble past all markers, only to be let down by the final decisive touch. That was the only perceptible weakness in the game of the 20-year-old.

Fast forward a few months and Gabadinho’s game is nearing perfection. He now knows when to either pick out teammates with a pass or go for personal glory. The more his understanding that football is about teamwork grows, the more prolific he has become.

For a boy standing barely 1.65 metres tall, it is amazing that he out-jumps, out-thinks and out-muscles defenders twice his height and age. It is difficult to single out his strength for he is blessed with many strengths.

He is good with both legs, he has the big match temperament, he has agility, balance, pace and power. He can dribble and head as if it is the easiest thing to do. Of course, scoring is his business. Nobody in Malawi understands how he became this good.

He was plucked from his village team in 2010 by Brave Warriors and played for them for a season in the second-tier Premier Division before earning a low-key move to Bullets.

Watching him score four goals in a single match I had no doubt he is the next big thing for Malawi football. Barely two seasons into the top flight, Gabadinho has three caps from substitute appearances.

It is just a matter of time before he transfers club form to country. Gabadinho needs proper guidance to remain on the straight and narrow. Players who have never gone through the developmental stages have a tendency to lose their head along the way to fame and fortune.

There is no better striker than Gabadinho currently playing in Malawi, hence one would understand Flames coach Kinnah Phiri’s selection of the Bullets boy. This could be a gamble as the boy has jumped so many steps. If the football authorities and Bullets manage this boy well, then it should not be long before Africa football takes notice of this little genius.

Those who saw him play for Flames in Ghana and Liberia last week have a story to tell. Before I forget, Gabadinho scored again on Saturday and Bullets won 1-0 against Epac FC.

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