Matt Corr’s Malawian Diary – A beautiful Sunday in Blantyre, Malawi

Matt Corr’s Malawian Diary

Part 6 – A beautiful Sunday in Blantyre, Malawi…but sadly no football for the Celtic FC Foundation volunteers!

Sunday morning, up with the lark.

Well, not quite. It’s a 7.00 am rise at Kabula Lodge for a 7.45 departure, as some of the Celtic FC Foundation volunteers head to church.

The weather has turned cold and wet, and this could be Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, rather than South Malawi. Hoodies are the order of the day as we shuffle into the church after a 10-minute bus journey. The Church of St Louis De Montfort in Mount Pleasant is modern and quite stunning and totally at odds with the abject poverty we have witnessed all week. That doesn’t really sit so well, to be honest, but hey ho.

Approaching the church in rainy Blantyre
Inside the church

Ozzie’s influence obviously spreads here also, as we are seated front and central in a block before the priest wanders over to shake hands and say hello. There is a choir over in the corner to our right producing some beautiful music and everyone looks immaculate, except perhaps the small group of visitors who have been living out of a suitcase for a week. The priest opens up with a lovely “Welcome to our guests from Scotland, Celtic FC Foundation” and the congregation give us a polite round of applause.

Entering the church, with the choir on our right

The service is quite uplifting and a nice start to the day. As we head home, it is noticeable that the traffic congestion we have been part of all week is not a thing today. Shops are closed on a Sunday, but we do stop off at Blantyre’s equivalent of ‘the Barras’ and most of the group go for a wander, whilst I take the opportunity of some quiet time to pull together a few notes for the diary on the bus. Markets are my idea of hell on earth from a shopping perspective.

As we head back towards Kabula Lodge we pass the Kamuzu football stadium. We had hoped to take in a match there today, and Ozzie has been checking out options. Football is hugely popular in Malawi and in Blantyre in particular, with the derby between Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers the highlight of – and best-attended fixture – in the calendar. The red-clad Bullets are the Malawian equivalent of Celtic, the biggest and most successful club in the country, current champions and particularly dominant in the third millennium, with 13 Super League titles since 2000. And like Celtic, back in 2018 they were managed by a man called Rodgers, but whilst Brendan was leading the Hoops to back-to-back Domestic Trebles, Yasin was getting the…er…big bullet from the Big Bullets. I’ll get my coat.

The football stadium and Celtic Ozzie!

Mighty Wanderers’ blue-and-white club crest reflects the fact that its Portuguese founders in the early 1960s were supporters of FC Porto. Only two of their six Super League titles have come since 2000. Both clubs have their base at the aforementioned Kamuzu Stadium, the country’s largest, which can accommodate 65,000 spectators.

Emma outside the Kamuzu football stadium – home of the champions

The Malawian national team are known as the Flames, and are currently ranked 125th by FIFA, on the same points total as Estonia and Cyprus. They have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations finals of three occasions, the most recent being in 2021, albeit the matches were actually played in 2022 due to COVID. Malawi’s finest result was the 3-0 win over eventual semi-finalists Algeria – featuring Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra and a host of players playing at the top level in Europe – in the opening Group A match in Angola in January 2010.

Malawi’s last participation at that level two years ago also brought success, the Flames punching above their weight to finish third behind Senegal and Guinea to qualify for the knockout stage in the finals which were staged in Cameroon. Malawi’s brave campaign ended in a narrow 2-1 defeat to another African powerhouse, Morocco, in Yaounde in January 2022.

Whilst our group of volunteers were based in Malawi, the national team played two 2026 World Cup qualifiers, the first of those a 3-1 win over island nation Sao Tome and Principe at the Bingu National Stadium in the capital city Lilongwe on Thursday, 6 June 2024. But four days later, the Flames went down 1-0 away to Equatorial Guinea. Malawi currently sit fourth of six nations in CAF Qualifying Group H, four points behind leaders and favourites Tunisia. Namibia and Liberia are the other countries which make up the qualifying section.

Those World Cup qualifiers meant there would be no domestic football match on for us today, but, in any case, we have a couple of important tasks to carry out back at the Lodge (Things you never thought you would say number 14C!). First and foremost, we have to organise the gifts brought over from Scotland for delivery to the school at Masalani tomorrow. This proves to be a real team effort as we commandeer the dining room with each table set aside for a particular size of clothing, from Small to X-Large. The volunteers work quickly and efficiently to pull this together under direction from the Foundation Lead, with Ozzie in full Celtic regalia on ball duty. Suitcases are packed neatly with sized clothing and labelled, whilst others are set aside for sports equipment and school supplies such as stationery and books.

Packing process
All done

Whilst this is ongoing, each volunteer in turn will have to head downstairs to the low patio to record a personal video with Lewis from Celtic FC Foundation, reflecting on their experience on this trip. I have to say that I haven’t been looking forward to this. In the safety of the group and the privacy of my own head I’ve been pretty much dealing with anything for a week, but when faced with a camera and some direct questions…well, that’s a different matter entirely and a few raw emotions come to the surface.

Low patio at Kabula Lodge

Interviews are complete, suitcases are packed and faced with a rare couple of hours of free time, some of the group then take up the offer to visit a local bar, the Blue Elephant – the only tusked creature we will see in Malawi as someone comments. That proves to be a great call, a much-needed release for laughter and relaxation ahead of the final part of our trip. Then it’s back on the bus to Kubala Lodge for dinner and a nightcap.

Blue Elephant in Blantyre
Home again

Tomorrow will be a big day, with emotions once again likely to be stretched to the limit as we bid farewell to our friends at Masalani.

I’m nearing the end of this series of articles now. If you have been moved by them in any way and you are in a position to donate to ensure the wonderful work carried out by Celtic FC Foundation and its partners can continue then you will find the links below.

I’ve been blown away by the generosity of those who have already supported our efforts by donating to the various Just Giving pages of the volunteers. These funds can make a real difference to some of the most vulnerable and isolated people I have ever met.

We are their voice.

If you have a friend or relative on the trip, then please do what you can to raise awareness of their efforts and donate if, what and when you can. You will find these pages at Celtic’s Malawi Adventure 2024 – JustGiving.

Matt’s Just Giving page is Matt Corr is fundraising for Celtic FC Foundation – click HERE to donate

Hail Hail!

Matt Corr with the Celtic FC Foundation volunteers in Malawi

Follow Matt on Twitter/X @Boola_vogue

About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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