The Flames final travelling party, this week, bound for Namibia via Botswana speaks volumes about the wind of change blowing in the Malawi senior national football team.
‘Enemies in-chief’ Fischer Kondowe and Douglas Chirambo could not have been called for camp training, let alone make the final squad as is the case now. The same can be said about ever-impressive Gastin Simkonda and up-and-coming Lucky Malata.
Perhaps what would have been unthinkable, a few months ago, would have been Young Chimodzi Junior’s inclusion in the Namibia-bound line-up. Owen Chaima would have earned a call-up, but nothing more. Zicco Mkanda could have just made the numbers.
A few months ago, nobody would have imagined Eddington Ng’onamo displacing Kinnah Phiri as interim coach—let alone Ernest Mtawali and Patrick Mabedi as assistant coaches in place of Young Chimodzi Senior.
No one could have imagined Joseph Kamwendo and Malata to become captain and deputy captain, respectively, in place of Peter Mponda and Moses Chavula.
Therefore, as far as that sheet of paper on which FAM announced the travelling squad is concerned, traces of change are visible. Beyond that paper—the new look squad and coaching panel—it is hard to feel the winds of change.
The change seems to have started and ended with the Flames squad—not enough change for football which thrives on team work on and off the field of play. Football requires all stakeholders to play their part before results can be expected on the pitch.
“Football is not about one person, but it is all about team work,” Mabedi observed during the new panel’s unveiling ceremony recently.
Even the very theory of change as explained onwww.theoryofchange.org suggests that worthwhile change must be good and complete, readable by others “and show that you know how to chart your course. This is helpful with constituents, staff, partner organisations and funders.”
Replace the constituents named above with FAM affiliates such as Sulom, National Referees Committee, three regional leagues among others. Retain the staff mentioned. Government and the private sector should take the place of partner organisations and funders mentioned on the website.
Are these stakeholders, staff and sponsors aware of the change to enable them make adjustments in their moral and financial support to the Flames? Maybe!
When unveiling Ng’onamo and his backroom staff recently at Chiwembe Technical Centre, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu could not hide his wish for Flames’ new beginning.
“We hope they will bring a smile on Malawians’ faces. Eddie is a qualified and experienced coach who has never been tried and tested. The appointment of the two [Mabedi and Mtawali] was in recognition of their experience. They have played football at the highest level,” Nyamilandu said.
Ng’onamo, Mabedi and Mtawali’s part-time tenure runs from March 1 to June and they are on probation with the games against Namibia on March 24 in the World Cup qualifiers providing them a litmus test. More Group F games follow in June against Kenya at home and away to Nigeria.
An interim coaching panel is expected to bring back a smile on the faces of Malawians in three months or so? The last time Flames fans smiled was perhaps in the two-pronged qualifiers for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. Then the Flames were near unbeatable at home, leading to 2010 Africa Cup of Nation (Afcon) qualification.
Malawi hit headlines in not only upsetting then Africa kings Egypt 1-0, but also ended the Pharaohs 18-month unbeaten run in competitive games. It was a feat which on his unveiling, Ng’onamo acknowledged that: “Kinnah did a good job…we went to Afcon.”
But when everyone thought the Flames had improved, the team’s 2012 Nations Cup campaign turned sour. The Flames improved their away form but despite avoiding losses, eight qualifying games of six draws and two wins proved inadequate to guarantee a second ticket to the Nations Cup finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
How does Ng’onamo bring smiles in months? During the unveiling, Nyamilandu contradicted himself.
“The appointments are not an end. It’s not the only solution. We are facing bigger problems. I will not use the coaches as a scapegoat,” he claimed.