Wow! Did the Flames just beat the Brave Warriors in Windhoek, Namibia? That was the question I asked myself when the final whistle went at the Sam Nujoma Stadium. I will be the first to admit that although I was confident that the jinx with the team from the Kalahari Desert would be broken at some point, I never thought this would be the time to do it because various factors conspired against us.
Not only did I feel the team was ill-equipped given what I thought were disjointed preparations, but we were also faced with a situation where two assistant managers with no real international experience in the dugout were left in charge following the sudden return home of coach Eddington Ngo’namo so close to the game. My heartfelt condolences go to him and his family on their bereavement.
But the team defied all odds and put up what was reportedly a more than decent performance that deserved more than the sole Gabadinho Mhango strike. This is quite remarkable and unreserved congratulations are due to Ernest Mtawali, Patrick Mabedi and their charges on putting the smiles back on the faces of Malawians who have had very little to cheer about in recent years.
Of course, it goes without saying that nothing has been won yet. What that landmark victory has done is put our campaign for a slot at next year’s World Cup in Brazil back on track because our fate is now firmly in our own hands. In other words, we are going to determine our own destiny. If we repeat last Saturday’s feat in the last three matches we move on regardless of what happens in other matches.
Our confidence should be high now because we have not only beaten Namibia for the first time in a competitive match, but we have also registered a significant away win for the first time in a while. If we can use home advantage in the games against the Brave Warriors and Kenya’s Harambee Stars and at least avoid defeat in Nigeria, we would be one step closer to an improbable World Cup qualification.
The question that comes up immediately, however, is whether we are prepared as a nation to handle more success. The further we go in this competition, the greater the financial demands. Does the country have the capacity to finance the Flames’ demands should they surprise the world by making it to Brazil? I seem to get the feeling that such achievement would stretch us beyond the limit.
When the Flames recorded that memorable 3-0 victory against Algeria during the group stages of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2010, we heard that the team had only budgeted for the group stages and that progress to the knockout phase was going to put officials under pressure. I am hearing similar vibes now with authorities making desperate, albeit muted, calls to the corporate world to come in.
This song of getting corporate support for sports has been sung for a long time now. Gone are the days when almost every company with a name in town had a team featuring for various divisions of our regional leagues. With time, however, the companies have not only disbanded the teams, but have also completely abandoned football and have concentrated on golf which the bosses are personally involved in.
The fact that the companies are still involved in sport suggests there is at least a few notes to spare. Football needs to do a thorough introspection on why this money is eluding the game.