Gabadinho making huge impact for Bullets
Perhaps making unique nicknames in football is a silent, working theory to stardom.
Abedi Ayew, popularly known as Abedi Pele, and Ronadinho, born Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, previously did that, and the stories of their magic on the pitch are self evident.
Is Big Bullets’ Hellings Frank Mhango, nicknamed Gabadinho, trying the trick?
The nickname rolls off the lips of not only Bullets faithful, but football fans across the country.
But who is this boy?
He is the local football player of the moment after his sparkling form in four consecutive games has taken Bullets to the semi-finals of the Presidential Cup. The magic of his right leg is speaking loud for him.
He scored a sensational hat-trick as Bullets beat Bvumbwe Research 4-0 in the Presidential Cup quarter-finals last Sunday. This was after he had claimed a double as Bullets destroyed Silver 3-1 and also scored one goal against Ng’onga in the previous rounds of the competition.
He was also the match-maker for the Flames when they beat Zambia in an international friendly game on July 6.
“The name ‘Gabadinho’ inspires me a lot. I gave myself the name in 2010 because it sounds like a big star and it makes me work hard to be one,” he said in an interview during the week.
Abedi Pele, one of Africa’s most decorated players, was born Abedi Ayew, but was given the nickname ‘Pele’ in recognition of his superior ability that evoked comparisons to Brazilian great Pelé.
The nickname later became part of his official name.
“My birth name is Hellings and when I was young my late grandfather gave me a nickname Gabadini. But when I started playing competitive football I turned the name to Gabadinho in admiration of Brazilian legend Ronadinho,” says Gabadinho.
Ronadinho is also a nickname. It was the diminutive term for Ronaldo. It came about because he was often the youngest and smallest players in youth club matches.
“Looking at the success of people with unique nicknames like Brazilian players I decided to make it my official name. So, please set the record straight. My official name which I want to be known with is Gabadinho” he says.
When he came for an interview on Wednesday, Gabadinho looked more of an uptown urban boy. He wore stylish clothes; white all star sneakers, faded blue skinny jeans and tight white printed T-shirt with a shiny silver belt.
But it was easy to tell he is still adjusting to city life. His Chichewa accent clearly betrays his Tumbuka background.
Gabadinho is just two years old in Blantyre, having arrived in 2010 from Chiweta, Rumphi, where he spent his whole childhood since his birth on September 27, 1992.
He started playing football at Chiweta Primary School in his home village of Kamphoni.
“It is a family heritage; My dad used to play for Kabwafu, so maybe that is where I got the skills. While still in primary, I was selected to play in Massa Primary School games in Mzuzu, but I never made it in the select side.
“After my Standard Eight, I came to stay with my sister in Blantyre. My father linked up with a Mr. Mhango of Lilongwe who recommended me to Geoge Kapachika of Brave Warriors. I joined the team in the Southern Region Football League,” he said.
So, it was straight from primary school football to a regional league. But despite his lack of experience, the youngster shone in his debut season, scoring an incredible 35 goals in 31 games.
Then last year, he moved to Bullets, but did not make a mark despite showing individual brilliance. At the start of the current season, he also struggled to hit form until when Bullets played Bvumbwe in a league game. He scored a brace in the game as Bullets won 4-1.
Then goals started flowing in games against Ng’onga, Silver and Bvumbwe, spiced up by a man-of-the-match display in the Flames game against Chipolopolo.
It is not all about the goals but his vision, runs, first touches, dribbles and ability to take on defenders head-on that distinguish him from ordinary strikers.
Despite that, he is guilty of missing clear chances and can only compete against himself for the Super League Worst Miss of the Season Award.
“I really don’t know what happens for the misses, but I am glad that goals have started coming now. The older players have been a source of encouragement,” he said.
Then there are the goal celebrations. Of all the eight goals he has scored this season he has not celebrated any. He just walks after scoring.
“I copied that from Mario Balloteli. He is my idol and I model my game on him. Like Balloteli says, It is a striker’s duty to score goals, so why should I cerebrate for doing what I am supposed to do? But I only idolise Balloteli’s football and not his off-pitch behaviour,” he said.
The youngster dreams of playing professional football in Europe.
“I know I have the talent to make it big and it is just a matter of working on some weaknesses, especially finishing, then improving my fitness levels,” he said.
He added that he wants to break into the Flames main team. He has since January been called to Flames camp, but has only made two appearances. He came on as a substitute as Flames drew 2-2 with China Under-22 and beat Zambia 1-0 in friendly matches.
His club assistant coach Gerald Phiri believes the player has the potential to make it big if he stays out of trouble.
“He has an attitude problem, but we are working on that. He is also selfish when he has the ball, but he is slowly changing. So, there is still a lot of work to be done and the future looks bright,” said Phiri.
Gabadinho harbours ambitions to work as an accountant in future if his football career fails to get him abroad. But he faces a challenge to accomplish that as he ‘hates’ school. He failed to sit JC examinations recently for undisclosed reasons.
“It was just a mistake and I was wrong, but I am going back to school next term. School will now be a priority for me and football will come second,” he said without elaborating why he did not sit the examinations.
Phiri said they have put in strong measures to ensure that the player, alongside other youngsters in the team, attend school.
“His school fees was paid by the club and since he was staying with his elder sister, we assumed he was attending classes. It was a shock to learn that he was not and didn’t even bother sit the exams.
“We start training at 3:30pm deliberately so that players are able to attend school. He should not be spoilt by getting out of school as young as he is,” said Phiri.
The CCAP faithful spends most of his free time indoors and does not fancy partying as some players do.
“I will never drink in my life. I don’t have a girlfriend as I am not ready to date though there are some women- some older than me- making advances on me. I like video games, in particular play station, as well as watching football on TV.
“I am a good friend of George Nyirenda who encourages me a lot and we are roommates whenever we are in camp,” he said.n