My last article about the Malawi National Football Team was entitled ‘It’s not over until it’s over! ‘
The title actually emanated from the mouth of the national coach himself, Meck Mwase, after beating South Sudan 0-1 in Khartoum, Sudan last Wednesday. He said the job to qualify for 2022 Cameroon Africa Cup of Nations would be over if Malawi beat Uganda at Kamuzu Stadium.
Well, it’s over now. The Flames have booked themselves a slot at this continent’s high profile soccer platform to be hosted by the West African country, Cameroon, next after their last qualification in 2010 under coach Kinnah Phiri.
The world knows it is Meck Mwase behind this historic qualification. A reminder that this is the third qualification by the Flames to the Afcon. The first was in 1984 and coach Henry Moyo was behind this qualification in 1983. Unfortunately, the Malawi FA opted to hire an English coach Danny Macleanan to the continental show piece in 1984.
How did we fair in 1984? Well, we first drew against Nigeria 2-2 and went on to lose the next two games. We never got out of the group stage. We flopped miserably. Reports indicate that the English mentor carelessly got into bad books with some prolific and star players including Lawrence Waya whom he dropped, hence the poor show.
In 2010, Kinnah Electric Phiri took the Flames to Angola for Afcon. The team had wins over Egypt, Djibouti and DRC along the way. A historic victory in Angola was against Algeria when Malawi won 3-0. Again, we did not make it out of the group stage. It was later revealed by FIFA that there was match fixing in the subsequent matches after the match against Algeria and Hellings Mwakasungula was labelled Malawi’s Judas and eventually banned from football activities by the world football governing body.
In 2021, it is Meck Mwase and you know the road that Malawi has travelled to reach this far. Then there is the historic championship of the 1988 East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup in which Malawi thumped Zambia 3-1 in the finals at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre. Who then was Malawi’s coach in 1988? Well, it was Reuben Malola, a local coach, a former Flames player.
Therefore, your observation is as good as mine that Malawi football history is favouring local coaches in as far as qualification for Afcon and the winning of the 1988 East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup is concerned. The only exception is in 1978 when Malawi won the same cup under Ted Powell, an English mentor who had taken over from Wonder Morell, a Brazilian.
This to me then, signifies the need to maintain the current technical panel for the Flames. Mwase did not have a permanent long-term contract with the Football Association of Malawi (FAM). This is the time to give him a long-term contract and fully support him the way expatriate coaches like Ronny Van Gneugden were. That is if at all RVG was an expatriate. Luckily, FAM President Walter Nyamilandu attested to this fact that Mwase deserves a contract on a long-term after the 1 nil victory against Uganda last Monday.
“The man is a hero. The last time we went to Afcon it was under a local coach Kinnah Phiri.
“We brought expatriate coaches, but they never delivered. It has taken Meck to achieve this feat within a year. We will be stupid to let him go. He has earned his contract,” remarked the jovial Nyamilandu.
While I find it very important to maintain Mwase, it is also important to send him together will the entire team to Europe for some kind of deep exposure to the game of football.
Mzuzu-based former OT Spurs goalkeeper and coach, Joseph Tchuba, recalls that the Malawi National Football Team, camped in England with coach Ted Powell before returning to clinch the East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup in 1978.
“The team went to England. There, they were playing against small teams not those belonging to the English Premier League. They won no game. In fact, they were losing with wide embarrassing margins but Powell said what the players were learning would be seen when the team returned. True to his words, it was a formidable team back in southern Africa and clinched the East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup in 1978,” explained Tchuba who also once coached Mzuzu Escom in those days.
One may wish to recall also that three quarters of players in the team that qualified for the 2010 Afcon under Kinnah Phiri, first got exposed in Germany with Manfred Hoener who was Malawi’s Technical Director.
Hoener was vigilant in spotting players across the country and shaping them at junior level before handing them over to the coach for the senior national team.
In 1997, Hoener led the junior national team to participate in the Dana Cup in his home country, Germany.
Players that were polished by the German mentor include Dan Chitsulo, James Chimera Junior, Clement Kafwafwa and Peter Mponda. Mponda, who was captain of the Malawi side that went to Angola in 2010, agreed that the German exposure laid a good foundation for coach Kinnah Phiri.
It is therefore very clear that for the team to prepare very well for Afcon 2022 in Cameroon, there is need to maintain the local coach. There is also need to send the whole team to Europe for training and strength testing matches against strong African teams should be lined up between now and the time team will be travelling to Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Players should desist from the hunger for money that comes with being enticed to fix matches as was the case in 2010.
As one can clearly see, it has all been local coaches and yes, it’s been local coaches.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :