Nyirenda still on top of his game

"If somebody cannot follow the law, then find something else to do. Everything has laws and rules. Even a chair. You can only sit on a chair, not stand."

With that, Baroka coach Wedson Nyirenda perfectly sums up how he has, over a career that spans 32 years as a prolific striker and coach, managed to stay on top of his game.

And it goes a long way towards unravelling how Bakgaga find themselves in this most unlikely of positions - the cusp of their maiden first tier cup title against one of the ultimate giants of local football, Orlando Pirates, five months after Nyirenda's appointment.

En route to the Telkom Knockout final, they overcame defending champions Bidvest Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns among others and it was no mean feat, considering the two sides' pedigree.

"We do offer our players counselling and support, but they have to want it. The reality of life everywhere is, 'if you want to do what you want, then it will have to be outside whatever organisation you belong to'," said Nyirenda.

Still, the steely, principled stance that puts up with none of the usual footballers' shenanigans hawking the tabloids on any given Sunday is tempered with a gentle demeanour and voice, founded upon the principles of his born-again Christian faith.

Nyirenda first burst onto the SA football scene in Kaizer Chiefs colours, back in 1993, and never looked back. He endeared himself to Amakhosi faithfuls with his scoring prowess.

The evolution continues, and tomorrow it will be televised, as Nyirenda, a son of Ndola, in northern Zambia, attempts the downfall of the Buccaneers - arguably the most feared team currently.

"It means a lot to be in this position, and so soon. I have gone through a lot in life," he said.

The death of his mother last month, who Nyirenda had been looking after since his older brother Stone gave him the responsibility of taking care of her in 1986 when he went overseas was one of those difficult moments for the astute 52-year-old mentor.

Football had taken Stone, an equally prolific striker who Nyirenda had idolised and followed into football, to Belgium where he remains today.

Yet, another sad moment, which is inextricably linked with Zambian football, is the demise of the entire national team in a plane crash in 1993.

"We [Zambian players] were more than best friends, they were my brothers. We had known each other for years, played for the same clubs and in the national team. I was supposed to have been in that plane to Senegal.

"I now see it as God's purpose. It still sends chills down my spine."

On a happier note, Nyirenda recognises that no conversation about Zambian football is complete without touching on the exploits of his fellow countrymen in front of goal.

Over the years they have prowled the local fields, in addition to Nyirenda, names like that of the late Dennis "Chesa Mpama" Lota, James Chamanga and Collins "Ntofontofo" Mbesuma have become synonymous with precision in front of goal.

Nyirenda, author of the book titled It's All about Time, motivational speaker and preacher said he realised he was blessed to be here and sees his work and contribution to the success of an unheralded team like Baroka as another element of his ministry.

If he manages to impart the single-mindedness and savagery of a Zambian attacker to the local attackers under his tutelage, then all the better.

"In Zambia, we believe in a direct approach to the game. We learn early to run hard, be aggressive and be physically imposing," he said.

"The philosophy is that scoring completes the match. We don't dance with the ball. And the current Zambians in the Pirates team, Justin Shonga, Lazarous Kambole and Augustine Mulenga, will be going all out to get us. We have to pin those guys back, or they will kill us."

As he contemplates his moment in the sun and his career coming full circle, Nyirenda recounts his third big moment, but this one is happier, and speaks to the beginning of it all for him.

"Two years before Chiefs signed me, I came for trials at Dynamos, Moroka Swallows and Mamelodi Sundowns. They all said no, but Chiefs wanted me so much they signed me while I was still at home.

"I got my chance for a little revenge on Sundowns when I scored a brace in our 3-2 win in the BP Top 8 final in 1994," he chuckled.