On the 30th April 1997, Reuben Malola was dismissed as the Malawi National soccer team (Flames) coach. The verdict to fire him was made at a meeting attended by officials from the Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) and the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) following poor performance of the Flames.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was Malawi’s 4-0 defeat at the hands of Zambia on 12 April in the Castle Cup competition.
This was the second time for Rueben Malola to be fired as coach for the Flames. He was last given the boot as Flames’ coach in 1990. Thereafter, he relocated to Kenya where he coached a local soccer team called AFC Leopards until the mid-1990s when he was recruited to take over the Flames as a coach again.
As far as the Flames is concerned, Rueben Malola remains the most decorated Malawian having won gold medals for three times. Twice, he won gold medals at the CECAFA tournaments with the Flames as a player on 19th November 1978 and 17th November 1979 when the Flames beat Zambia 3-2 in Blantyre and Kenya 3-2 in Nairobi respectively.
The third moment for Reuben Malola to receive a gold medal with the Flames, was on 19th November 1988 when the Flames were conferred gold medals after beating Zambia 3-1 in the final match played in Blantyre to clinch the CECAFA trophy for the third and last time. At this juncture, he was no longer a player but a coach for the Flames’ winning squad.
On 16th December 1989, Ruben Malola was still the coach when the Flames failed to defend the CECAFA trophy in Nairobi by a whisker having lost to Uganda in the final game that went to post-match penalty shoot outs (2-1) following a 3-3 draw at the end of extra-time. The Flames and their coach Rueben Malola came back home with silver medals.
Had this match against Uganda ended in favor of the Flames, Rueben Malola would have left another indelible mark in the history of the country as the only Malawian to have won a trophy back-to-back as a player with the Flames (1978 and 1978) and again back-to-back with the Flames as a coach (1988 and 1989).
Furthermore, in August 1987, as a new coach, Rueben Malola travelled with the Flames to the 1987 All Africa Soccer Games in Kenya where the Flames performed exceptionally well and received bronze medals as a third placed team in the tournament after clobbering continental power houses like Egypt, Senegal, and Cameroon. At the same tournament, the golden boot award for top goal scorer went to the Flames’ player by the name of Lawrence Waya.
Another aspect that also adds credits to Ruben Malola’s profile as Flames’ coach is that Kennedy Malunga who played at the 1987 All Africa Soccer Games under coach Rueben Malola, was voted number 6 on the top 10 FIFA’s Africa Players of the year (1987) ahead of Cameroon’s Roger Milla and Ghana’s Abedi Pele Ayew at positions 10 and 8 respectively.