President Lazarus Chakwera yesterday encouraged the Flames to aim for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) trophy at the tournament’s finals in Cameroon next year.
The President gave the motivational talk when he hosted the team to a luncheon at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.
The Flames qualified for the finals after 1-0 victory over Uganda Cranes at Kamuzu Stadium on Monday.
President Chakwera thanked the players for removing the ‘underdog’ tag that Malawi has been wearing for the past decade.
He said: “We were being treated as underdogs for a long time. But what our opponents didn’t know is that it’s not about the size of the dog but the fight in the dog.
“Now that we have again qualified, we should not rest on our laurels but aim for the main thing. We have shown that we are achievers and we can do it.”
In his remarks, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu asked government for more support in preparation for the Cameroon finals.
He said: “We are allocated K300 million against a budget of K1 billion. It has been difficult for us to build a well oiled conveyor belt for both the mens and womens national teams which would ensure we are regular participants at the Afcon.”
Speaking on behalf of the players, vice-captain John CJ Banda expressed gratitude to the President for hosting them.
“We thank you for hosting us. This win is a gift to you,” said the Mozambique-based midfielder.
But Banda also took an opportunity to explain to the President the challenges the players are facing.
“As players, we are facing so many challenges, and we would be very grateful if you help us,” he said.
He appealed to the President to allocate houses or land to the players and make available special loans for national team players.
Chakwera in his speech promised that government would look into the concerns raised.
He said: “We should revise on how to formulate national budget so as not to focus on consumption but other factors as well. We also would want companies to come in and support us as FDH Bank plc, TNM Plc, Masm [Medical Aid Society of Malawi] have done,” he said.
On concerns raised by Banda, Chakwera said: “Welfare of players is important. That is something to be looked into.”
Minister of Youth and Sports Ulemu Msungama, Malawi National Council of Sports board chairperson Sunduzwayo Madise, Super League of Malawi (Sulom) president Tiya Somba Banda, officials from TNM plc, FDH Bank plc and Masm also graced the occasion.