Flames fans believe given plentiful resources and ample time, Mabedi can deliver 

Fans have applauded the decision by Football Association of Malawi (FAM) in appointing Under-20 head coach, Patrick Mabedi, as Flames caretaker coach until this September — saying if given plentiful resources and ample time, he can deliver.

A statement from FAM that’s posted on Fam.mw — that’s also shared on Facebook — reports that at the association’s first meeting of 2023 held in Salima, the Executive Committee resolved to engage Mabedi in acting capacity to fill the void following the departure of Mario Marinica — whose contract was not renewed.

Patrick ‘General’ Mabedi

The statement says Mabedi will see the team through the two remaining 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against Ethiopia in June and Guinea in September as well as the Confederation of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup in May.

“In the meantime, FAM will immediately embark on the process to recruit a full time Flames head coach,” says the statement. “FAM has settled for Mabedi to ensure continuity as he has been in the national teams structures for close to four years.”

Mabedi was also assistant to Marinica, whom fans disliked his tactics — especially the back-to-back losses against Egypt (0-2 in Cairo and the embarrassing 0-4 at home — that forced FAM not to renew his contract.

General Mabedi — as he is fondly called having been tough as teak in his playing days with Big Bullets, the Flames and Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa — has  been in charge of the Under-20 since 2020 and was also assistant coach to late Eddington Ng’onamo in 2013.

“The former Flames captain is one of the few local coaches with top international exposure having coached in South Africa including a stint with Primer Soccer League giants Kazier Chiefs,” says FAM in the statement.

However, some section of them are skeptical whether he can truly deliver. Out of over 1,300 comments, a few expressed their reservations over Mabedi’s choice with Fonda Rashid and Joe Kadzombe opining that as assistant to Marinica, Mabedi was part of the tactical deficiency that saw the Flames collecting 3 points from four AFCON qualifiers.

Richard Walibwe Nyirongo asked if Mabedi was chosen for having performed well as the Under-20 coach while others believe he hasn’t the right credentials to be accorded such an opportunity.

But the majority others supported the decision with Wesley Malenga, Sam Mawindo and several others advising FAM that he should be given a salary equivalent to that Marinica was getting that a nice house, a car, dog allowances among other benefits, saying: You will see how good he will perform.”

There was an uproar from the public last year when it was discovered how much Marinica was receiving and that he was accommodated at the plush Amaryllis Hotel in Blantyre.

But FAM quickly justified that it was not extravagantly spending on Marinica by disclosing that the association was spending K900,000 as a month special package, saying it could have been spending K900,000 to K1.2 million per month for a fully-furnished house for the Romanian.

Apart from the monthly rentals, FAM could have been expected to bear more  expenses such as 24-hour security services with alarms, costing between K600,000 to K1 million; DStv Services (K90,000); internet Wifi (K60,000); generator and fuel running costs (K100,000); utilities and domestic workers (K300,000).

Thus FAM contended that it had been saving up to K7.5 million for the five months the coach has stayed in the country, while refuting allegations made in the media that it spent over K17 million for the coach’s stay at the hotel.

While it was Meke Mwase who steered the Flames to the 2021 Cameroun AFCON, Marinica was credited for the team’s first-ever qualification into the knockout stages and his recognition by the media as head coach was met with surprise by fans back home as he was initially appointed as technical director.

Mwase, who became the third Malawian to take the team to Afcon after Henry Moyo in 1986 and Kinnah Phiri in 2010, was only in full charge for two games after Marinica tested positive of CoVID-19 and had to observe quarantine protocols.

A large section of fans thus asks FAM to give Mabedi the necessary support and incentives with Barton Luiz Mazengela saying with such positive support he can deliver, adding: “I believe in our own.”

Sammy Mukatho applauded FAM for “giving opportunities to fellow Malawians” as it did with Mwase while Kakusa Tawonga advised Mabedi that he should utilise some of the best players he was coaching in the Under-20 to form a fresh squad, especially the one to take to the COSAFA Cup.

In congratulating Mabedi, Christopher Kadzuwa advised him that for his job to be easier, he should rope in other tacticians such as Enos Chatama to help him how to select good players just as he does for grooming talented young players for the Nyasa Big Bullets from the People’s Team’s reserve side.

Thandazo Moyo described the decision as “awesome”, saying: “Mabedi is known for instilling discipline amongst players and driving results. He did amazing work at Kaizer Chiefs by disciplining all the naughty boys. Wishing him all the best.”

Binali Chitenje opined that “if given enough time and resources, Mabedi can deliver — not only one year”, saying elsewhere federations give coaches a long contract and results follow.

An example is that of 47-year-old Senegal coach, Aliou Cissé — who is best known for captaining the Senegal team which reached the 2002 AFCON final and for being the first Senegalese to win the African title in 2002 and also after reaching the final in 2019.

He has achieved the milestone since 2012 in a caretaker role after Amara Traore was sacked and was also assistant coach of Senegal Under-23 from 2012 to 2013, becoming head coach of the junior side from 2013 to 2015 — when he was given the role as the Lions of Teranga’s head coach.

Under his watch, Senegal qualified for 2018 FIFA World Cup but were knocked out in the group stage of the tournament after becoming the first team in FIFA World Cup history to be eliminated due to fair play tiebreaker rules.

He was still maintained as head coach by his federation for the 2019 AFCON, helping Senegal to its first-ever final since the 2002 edition, which Cissé was the captain but were defeated 1–0 by Algeria.

His long tenure reaped fruits as in 2022, Cissé led Senegal to their first-ever AFCON title — defeating the mighty Egypt 4–2 on penalties while in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, he led the team to the knockout stages, having also achieved it for the first time since he was a player in 2002.

Thus the Flames fans believe that given the right incentive of a good personal package, coupled with enough support through resources; and ample time to build his own squad, General Mabedi can deliver.

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