In the familiar surroundings of Mavuso Sports Centre in Manzini, e-Swatini, Meke Mwase gets his first test as Flames interim coach against Sihlangu this afternoon in a 2020 Championship of African Nations’ (Chan) first round first leg qualifier.
The Flames caretaker coach has fond memories of the kingdom nation’s capital Mbabane which used to be his base when was named Coach of the Season after a successful romance with Mbabane
Highlands.Today’s contest will also mark a new chapter for the Flames after parting ways with their former coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) whose two-year contract was not renewed by the Football Association of Malawi (FAM).
In an interview with Weekend Nation, Mwase said the match provides him a chance to make an impression as he tries to breathe a new lease of life into a side desperate for recovery after continued bouts of despair.
“Coaching the national team is an honour, but what is important is the task at hand because if we can chalk a win away, it will be a dream start.
“Getting a win away is always a bonus and that is what we will be aiming for, but avoiding a defeat will be satisfactory all the same.
“Nevertheless, we’ll have to exercise caution knowing that we will be playing away,” he said.
On whether, he and his backroom staff will maintain RVG’s approach and style of play, Mwase drew a long breath and said: “We cannot abandon what we learnt from RVG. There are some things that we are bound to change, but certainly not everything.”
In line with his stand that they are bound to ring some changes, Mwase has taken on board some of the oldguard which his predecessor dropped such as veteran forwards Chiukepo Msowoya and Gastin Simkonda who are tipped to get a run this afternoon.
Also back in the fold is battle-hardened forward Zicco Mkanda who last featured under Ernest Mtawali’s tutelage.
“Basically, it is a mix of upcoming and old players to balance the team, but generally the bulk of the squad is the same that we built together with RVG.”
On the approach for today’s showdown, Mwase said they will go for an early goal so as to unsettle the hosts.
Flames captain John Lanjesi said they are confident that today’s match could prove to be the turning point..
“We are determined to start a new chapter by registering a win after subjecting the nation to bouts of despair.
“We have had enough of being taunted as perennial underachievers and we want to bring a smile on the faces of Malawians.
“A draw against Morocco in our last  Afcon qualifier gave us confidence and we are prepared to continue from where we left,” he said.
The Flames, who arrived in Swaziland on Thursday evening from Johannesburg, South Africa by road, were scheduled to get the feel of the match venue in their only training session yesterday afternoon.
On the other hand, according to Swazi Observer, Sihlangu head coach Kostadin Papic has recalled two seasoned players in Mbabane Swallows goalkeeper Sandanezwe Mathabela and Green Mamba’s Mthunzi Mkhontfo for the clash.
He has also roped in new faces in the squad in the likes of Royal Leopard defender Melusi Frank Dlamini and Manzini Sun-downs’ youngster Bonginkhosi Dlamini. Papic is also reported to have drafted in Under-17 national team captain and Young Buffaloes starlet Lindani Matsenjwa, but overlooked two veterans in Tony Tsa-bedze and Wonder Nhleko.
Sihlangu begun full-time camping in preparation for the match last Sunday at e-Swatini Football Association Technical Centre.