South African club Mamelodi Sundowns have won this year’s Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League after beating one of the continent’s top club, Zamalek of Egypt 3-1 aggregate (winning 3-0 at home and losing 0-1 away in Cairo.
They have made the Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) proud and we, as Malawians, should also pat them on the back because they represented us well.
Sundowns reached the final after beating fellow Cosafa member, Zesco of Zambia in the semi-final.
Maybe we should go back to the drawing board and start analysing what is going wrong with ourselves that we fail to consistently participate in this continental club championship, which — I believe — is a stepping stone in preparing our own national team.
Sundowns have always planned to participate in the Caf tournaments by making sure they eye in winning their domestic league or lifting one of the national cup competitions to play in the Confederation Cup.
For Zesco, it was a fairly tale run in the 2016 Champions League and the team’s secretary Justin Mumba spoke to me about how they prepared for them to reach that far.
He said when they were promoted to the Football Association of Zambia Super Division in 2004, they put in place a plan for 10 years — that was to win the local league and go far in Caf tournaments. Since then they won the local league five times, finished second four times and won the local cup four times.
They have been in the Caf Champion League group stage two times in which they have participated for five times. They have participated in Caf Confederation Cup four times.
Mumba told me that their plan was to run the club on a professional by implementing the Fifa/Caf club licensing and by making sure the executive members, secretariat staff and coaches underwent training just to develop the skill and knowledge.
They kept a good number of players together for a longer time and brought in players from other countries just to bring in a different dimension into the team.
Through this excellent development plan, Zesco managed to contribute players to the national team which won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
They were Winstone Kalengo, Rainford Kalaba and Naymbe Mulenga and they have three players who play for Kenya — David Owino Odihambo, Jesse Were and Anthony Akumu.
This is something our clubs should emulate — strategic planning. We cannot expect our teams to participate in the next edition because of the financial constraints our clubs face even for just for the domestic league.
But, there is always room for good planning. Our teams should eye the 2018 edition of the Caf competitions by investing into a good number of quality players that can be nurtured for a longer time. During this period, the teams can set aside funds on reserve from each of their earnings from the gates and elsewhere and at the same time lobbying for the corporate support on this venture.
If they manage to win the domestic league or one of the national cups, they can then use that investment for the costs of the Caf participation.
First of all, come up with a budget. Find out the tentative costs of travel across Africa — east, west, north and south and how many games it can take say at group level of four teams.
That’s the investment that can be set aside and should the team fail to qualify for the Caf participation, that can be carried forward for the next attempt and so on. In the meanwhile, that investment will keep growing on its own through interest accumulation.
We don’t move forward in our football because we fail to plan and as the adage goes, ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’.
The football fraternity – that is the Football Association of Malawi (Fam), the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) and the lower leagues, should restructure our domestic league calendar that it should be in sync with the rest of African leagues.
The TNM Super League is still active and the race for the title is still tight. Probably the champions would be determined in December. By that time, the deadline for registration would have passed because the draw for the Caf club competitions is done a week before Christmas.
At least, Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Be Forward Wanderers can join the Confederations Cup by virtue of being national cup champions — the Presidential Cup and the Carlsberg Cup respectively.
But did they plan on how they would carry themselves successfully for this tough venture? It’s not an easy ride in these tournaments and we all know it.
Malawian football need to be injected with new life if it is to develop. Let’s not plan to fail. We should plan and fail; learn from the mistakes and plan more. If we continue to falter, still go back to the drawing board and continue planning better because as the saying goes ‘Rome was not built in a day’.
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