The steady rise of Maxwell: Gasten Phodo might be Super Leagues’ next big thing

The steady rise of Maxwell: Gasten Phodo might be Super Leagues’ next big thing

By Wonderful Samson

The previous weekend, Silver Strikers fans had cheered the Mzuni FC wide-man, donning shirt number 21, for being unplayable and scoring the goal that dumped their city rivals, Civo United, out of the 2019 Airtel Top 8 trophy.

The following weekend, on a cool Saturday afternoon of May 18, Silver Strikers were hosting the high-flying students in a Super League fixture at the Silver Stadium. 

Getting into that tie, The Bankers had hoped that the lanky number 21 would have a bad day at the office and not replicate the sublime performance he put up against their rivals the previous weekend. 

But just like he had tormented the Servants captain, Emanuel Zoya, the silky forward was in a scintillating form against the Area 47 giants and was tearing apart Herbert Wayekha and making himself a nuisance to Bankers defense.  

Although Mzuni FC lost the game, the man of the match performance the number 21 put on made everyone that watched the game speak highly of the talented forward. 

That game announced the arrival of a star in the making. Maxwell Gaten Phodo, the player that wore the jersey number 21. 

“When Max played for Mzuni FC against Silver on 18th May 2019 he was the best player on the pitch that day. Although he was not on the score-sheet, many will agree this was the game that forced Silver Strikers to fall in love with Max,” says Felix Joseph Kholowa, Phodo’s manager and agent. 

Among the many people that were wowed by the young Phodo on that memorable day was Young Chimodzi Snr, The Bankers’ demi-god, fondly known as Yugo, who watched the game. 

Yugo liked what he saw in the 21-year-old that a few months later the former Flames international led a technical panel that met Phodo for talks of a transfer deal at the Bankers Club House around 10 in the morning.

The involvement of the likes of Yugo, Flames’ most capped player and that of the current board chairman, Dr. Victor Mandlopa in the deal revealed how highly the Lilongwe giants rated Phodo and how desperate they were to sign him. 

On 1 October 2019, Phodo became a Silver Strikers player after spending 12 months with Mzuni FC in his debut Super League season in which he played 23 games for Mzuni in all competitions, with a return of 8 goals and 7 assists.

And although his signing ceremony was a quiet one, done without any sort of fanfare, joining one of the biggest teams in Malawi explained the special talent and personality of the boy from Kapalamula village, T/A Kachere in Dedza district.

To those that knew Phodo well, news that he had signed with Silver came with no surprise; Phodo was always destined for stardom.

In 2015 he had topped the scorers’ chart in the FMB U-20 league while playing for Dedza Eagles on loan. The goals that earned him the golden boot also earned his team a place at the FMB U-20 national finals which took place in Zomba.

At the old capital, Phodo amazed the fans present at the biggest event in Malawi youth football with his skills. In attendance, the President of the Football Association of Malawi (FAM), Walter Nyamilandu was amazed too. After the games, Nyamilandu even spoke to Phodo in person, encouraging him that he was destined for greatness.

Chikumbutso Babu, the Technical Director for Soccer Saints U-20, the team that developed Phodo, can only recall great moments of Phodo.  

“I know Max very well. I’m not surprised he is with a top team now. When he had the ball, it stuck to his foot and he was difficult to defend against. opponents hated to see him get on the ball. He was dangerous and lethal in front of the goal.

One of the most remarkable moments I will always remember him for happened in 2016 when he scored the winning goal against Dedza Young Soccer, the biggest team here in Dedza. He beat two defenders and scored with a sweet strike and ran straight to me, shouting that he did what I told him to do. The fans went crazy and shouted his name throughout the game, “Babu told

Phodo is not the first talent from Soccer Saints U-20 to join a top Super League side.

From Soccer Saints Mike Mtonyo was the first player to have signed for Silver Strikers as Daniel Soul and Daniel Chimbalanga signed for Mafco. However, none has become as popular as Phodo at his childhood club, according to Babu. 

That popularity looks set to be a familiar thing for Phodo at the top level if what he has shown in the 2020/21 Super League campaign can be prolonged. 

During week 9 Maxwell scored his second hat-trick of the season against TN stars to become the leading top goal scorer in the league with 8 goals after playing just 10 games for the Bankers since his signing.

Phodo is known to be a very passionate player of the game. As a kid, his love for the beautiful game and not on anything else, not even school, sparked anger from his parents who insisted that their son must stop playing football until Phodo’s uncle Mr. Holman Zamaere, a brother to the striker’s mother pleaded with the parents to let the boy chase his football dream.

Today the parents must be proud of their son who is slowly establishing himself as one of the top strikers in the league.

The youngster is moving closer and closer to become a big name in Malawi football as he was recently called into camp for the Malawi national football team, The Flames, as they were preparing to face South Sudan and Uganda in the 2020 Afcon qualifiers.

Silver Strikers are looking to end their title drought this season and given the goals Phodo is scoring at a scintillating rate, the young striker is going to be a key figure for the Central Bankers.

Mathews Salirana, who played together with Phodo at Dedza Young Soccer as well as at Mzuni (now Mzuzu Warriors) where he is now captain believes there is more to come from his former teammate.

“When Max arrived at Mzuni it was clear he was bright. He is fast. His body movements and his runs are clever. Defenders have to pay full concentration when marking him. He can score goals for fun with the fewest of touches. He stayed with us for a short time and the big teams were already coming for him,” says the Mzuzu Warriors defender.

From the brief background of his youth career and his early years in the league, everyone would be forced to agree with Salirana; the potential in Phodo is exciting and scary at the same time for youngsters like him have appeared but vanished as quickly as they had emerged. Only time will tell if Phodo will be different.    

PIC: Silver Strikers website

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