The economic power of soccer as a professional career in facilitating the long-term wellbeing of its athletes has always been a subjective subject especially in Malawi.
Its ability to create instant millionaires is balanced by its capacity to spawn destitute and miserable individuals in their post-soccer lives.
For every profession, they are winners who come out clean with a potential future and there are hapless losers who emerge with a gloomy prospect. One man’s windfall is another man’s hell of misfortune. Soccer is no exception.
The likes of modern-day soccer retirees like Walter Nyamilandu, Ernest Mtawali, Peter Mponda and former greats like Young Chimodzi, Kinnah Phiri and Spy Msiska represent a glamorous story of decent life after soccer career.
But the same cannot be said of other players. Former Big Bullets, Silver and Tigers player Ganizani ‘Njoka’ Malunga is trapped between misery and hopelessness in Area 36 in Lilongwe. So too is Muzipasi Mwangonde in Senti in the same city.
Their colleagues, former international left back and forward Douglas Chirambo and Noel “Amfumu” Mkandawire respectively departed this world cursing the career that forgot them in their predicament.
Perhaps it is for the latter examples that one player has decided to quit soccer and move on with his life elsewhere.
Former Nyasa Big Bullets striker Divason Mlozi recently hung his boots to chase a dream in another field. And he did so with etiquette conventional in white-collar jobs.
“Please accept this letter as a two-week notice of my resignation from my position as Nyasa (Big) Bullets player,” reads part of Mlozi’s letter to mark the end of an eight-year football career at the People’s team.
Mlozi, 34, has opted for the pen over the ball.
The mention of his resignation letter to fellow players, according to Mlozi, drew a hearty laughter. They did not take him seriously; they thought it was one of his usual pranks because he is well known for cracking jokes.
However, silence engulfed his team mates after they realized that he was dead serious.
Popularly known as ‘Agogo’ in the playing field, the nickname drawn from retired Ghanaian football striker Manuel “Junior” Agogo, Mlozi was thorny in the flesh of most defenders of rival teams.
He bows out of the sport leaving a mark in the country’s pages of soccer history. Unlike some other retiring players, Mlozi has the arsenal to survive life after football.
He holds a Diploma in Horticulture from Natural Resources College (NRC) obtained in 2014.
“When l started football in 2008, l had my ambitions and objectives to achieve in life. After being in the game for a number of years, l decided to enroll at NRC in Lilongwe for this programme,” says Mlozi who joined the college in 2012.
The Nyasa Big Bullets icon has a thousand reasons to smile now as he quits soccer. His dream has become a reality; a long-term goal has been scored because his tertiary academic credentials have landed him a clean and injury free job.
“As a family man, l cannot survive on playing football for the rest of my life. I have secured a job with Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (MUSCCO) and I will be based in Machinga,” says Mlozi, a father of one.
Apparently, the new job is a step into other long-term plans and goals for the former Bullets’ star.
“I am planning to go back to school to obtain a degree,” he says, “If God allows, l will go further up to Master’s Degree. The sky is not even the limit for me to achieve my goals.”
When asked on possibilities of returning to the football turf, Mlozi says he cannot foretell. But he is at least happy for his contribution to the development of the game in the country.
He advises fellow football players in the country to plan for their future than solely depending on the sport.
“Many of our friends are suffering because they did not plan for their future. Football is a short-term career. I urge current players to always focus on their future and ask themselves what kind of life they want to live after football,” he says.
Mlozi, the last born in the family of five children, hails from Mponela in Dowa District.
He started playing football while at primary school and says he used to play ‘Chikulunga’ (a football made from plastic papers) which is mostly used by boys in rural areas.
It was while playing for Mponela-based Maicc FC that Bullets spotted and plucked him.
As he moves away from football, Divason Mlozi becomes another model of transition from the sport into ordinary life.
Soccer analyst and former football player Heston Munthali lauds Mlozi for preparing himself well for life after the sporting career.
He, too, asks the current crop of players to do the same by working hard both at school and on the field of play.
“If players can have the right papers, they can secure good jobs after quitting the game and continue supporting their families,” says Muthali, who is now an entrepreneur.
Sports journalist Arkangel Tembo says the modern day game is lucrative for players to invest into their futures.
“The game is transforming in terms of player’s earnings in the country,” says Tembo “In other clubs, earnings are as high as K400, 000 net pay, which is three times higher than the salary of a degree holder in the civil service.”
From chasing a soccer ball on the field of play into holding a ball pen on top of office files as community mobilization officer for MUSSCO, Divason Mlozi is a shining example of how high earnings in soccer can secure a comfortable life for players after quitting the game. (By ThumbikoNyirongo, Mana)