Malawi Flames coach Young Chimodzi has admitted ignoring his sons Young Chimodzi Jnr and Tawonga for national duty at the time he was deputy national coach for fear of being accused of favouritism.
Despite enjoying rich form at Silver Strikers and South Africa’s National First Division (NFD) side Santos, Chimodzi Jnr and Tawonga respectively were conspicuously left out of the Flames and only found their way into the team when their father was removed, a situation that sparked debate behind the scenes.
Chimodzi admitted in an exclusive interview with Weekend Nation on Tuesday that although the head coach was Kinnah Phiri, there was a time when he found it tough to recommend his sons even when their performance merited national team consideration.
Between 2007 and 2008, when Stephen Constantine was Flames coach, Tawonga was a key member of the squad, but was reduced to a sideshow when Kinnah and Chimodzi took over. Later, his brother Chimodzi Jnr was one of the best defending midfielders on the domestic scene, but he, too, was overlooked.
“I knew that question would come at some point, but the truth is that I found myself in a very tight spot to recommend my sons when I was a key member of the coaching panel because people interpret things differently and I just wanted to play it safe,” said Chimodzi.
Asked if he felt guilty of denying his sons a deserved chance to play for the Flames, Chimodzi drew a deep breath and said: “That is a very tough question. I do not know how to answer it, but you need to understand the situation in which I found myself in, it was very tricky.
“I really would not want to blame anyone, suffice to say if they are good, they deserve consideration,” he said.
On whether this time around his sons should worry that he is back as head coach, Chimodzi said: “Perhaps, if there will be need to consider them, then I will have to do that after thorough consultation with relevant people such as my backroom staff and their respective coaches because there is an element of conflict of interest.”
In a separate interview, Chimodzi Jnr said he also noted that there was a time when he needed to be given a chance, but he could not be considered.
“I just concentrated on my game because I understood that everything happens for a reason and I knew that my time would come,” he said.
He said it came as no surprise when he was considered for national duty after the coaching panel that included his father was removed.
“When my father was named coach for the national team recently, the first question that came into my mind was: ‘Am I going to be overlooked again?’ But I guess it is one of those things and I live it in the hands of God,” he said.
Responding to a questionnaire, Tawonga wrote: “I would like to let you know something; every person gets what is given to him or her by God based on what He wants to achieve in the lives of certain individuals in that time through you. He [God] will make it possible in whichever way He sees it fit for me to be there.”
Former Flames captain Peter ‘Mjojo’ Mponda—who was Tawonga’s teammate at Santos before the latter moved to Europe—said there were times when he was surprised by his exclusion from the Flames.
“In fact, there came a time when I confronted a senior member of the coaching panel on why ‘Young Tawo’ was being left out when his performance at club level was superb and the response I got was that the decision was done at family level and I concluded that perhaps Chimodzi was involved.
“And when I returned from South Africa, I was not surprised that even Chimodzi Jnr was not being considered for the national team although his performance was good because I assumed that it was for the same reason,” said Mponda.
However, the former Flames on-field leader said there can be a better way of avoiding conflict of interest by Chimodzi through engaging his backroom staff. He also said the Chimodzis issue should act as a lesson to other coaches.
Kinnah, who was the head coach at that point in time, could not be reached for his comment in South Africa.
Tawonga currently plays for Greek club Iraklis Psachna, which he signed for in August last year while Chimodzi Jnr turns out for Silver Strikers in the Super League of Malawi.