Throughout the month of February, the United Soccer Coaches Black Coaches Advocacy Group is recognizing some of the black pioneers of the beautiful game in the USA and around the world. Today being the first work day of the week for the month we will start of our first recognition with one of our early advocates that has also accomplished so much as an individual and continues to do more these days. Here is the story of Kalekeni Banda.
Our First recognition for the 2020 Black History month is one of the early advocates of the beautiful game in the United States his adopted home. Born in 1951, Kalekeni Banda grew up in the farming village of Chituka in the African country of Malawi. After getting a good education and being active in sports in his native country his family of seven moved to Germany, and then to Mamaroneck, N.Y., where his father worked as a diplomat to the United Nations. He graduated from Mamaroneck High School in 1971, where he lettered in soccer and track and field in addition to being inducted to his high school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Coach Banda got a scholarship to attend the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMASS), where he played soccer and ran track. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education in the mid 70’s and ended up as a sports officer and Olympic team coach in Malawi. He decided to come back to the United States afterwards. In the 1980’s, Coach Banda helped put the University of Massachusetts women’s soccer team on the map. He coached the UMASS Minute women to six consecutive NCAA appearances, including five trips to the final four. In 1987, his team played in the National Championship, losing 1-0 to the University of North Carolina. During this time also coached the women’s UMASS track team.
He went on to coach the men’s soccer team, and both the men and women’s track teams for Amherst College in Massachusetts as well as a 5 year stint as men’s soccer coach for the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Coach Banda then went on to head the women’s soccer program at the University at Albany in New York. Coach Banda is known for his excellent and receptive coaching style while training college, high school and youth soccer players.
Coach Banda has twice received the prestigious NSCAA (now United Soccer Coaches) National Coach of the Year award, and is a three-time NSCAA Regional Coach of the Year. He has also been awarded the New England Intercollegiate Soccer League Coach of the Year, as well as the New England Women’s Intercollegiate Soccer Association Coach of the Year. With the success of his training and coaching programs, he has brought his teams to many NCAA appearances. These include runners-up in the 1987 NCAA Championship game, five NCAA Final Four Appearances, Eight NCAA Championship Appearances, with a total of ten post-season appearances. His players include 25 All-American selections, as well as one National Team player. In 1999, he was inducted into the University of Massachusetts (UMASS) Sports Hall of Fame. He developed and runs Banda “Bola” Soccer and has more recently created the Chituka Village Project, fulfilling a life-long desire to help and serve the children in his beloved homeland of Malawi, Africa.