The selection of Junior Flames’ provisional squad ahead of Cosafa Men’s Under-20 Championships has stirred a storm with football analysts questioning the continuous inclusion of some players alleged to be over-aged.
The Patrick Mabedi-led Under-20 national team technical panel has called up over 30 players to prepare for the December 3-13 Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) tournament, which will also serve as zonal qualifiers for the 2021 Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations.
The squad includes players such as Silver Strikers defender Hadji Wali, who captained Malawi Under-20 team at the Cosafa 2016 edition. It also has midfielder Wisdom Mpinganjira, Innocent Shema, Francis Chizuze and Patrick Mwaungulu, who have been in the squad for the past three years.
Football analyst George Chiusiwa yesterday said the inclusion of “experienced” players in the Under-20 squad “clearly shows that we have lost direction in as far as player development in Malawi is concerned”.
He said the situation demonstrates that Football Association of Malawi’s (FAM) player identification, recruitment and monitoring mechanisms are deficient.
Said Chiusiwa: “Most of the players in the current squad are over-aged. We cannot expect to have in the squad players like Wali and Mpinganjira, who have played for this junior side for a number of years.This means we are not moving forward as we are not graduating these players despite them being too old for an Under-20 team.”
His sentiments were echoed by another football analyst Mathews Kimu Kamau who said that it is better to lose with a legitimate youthful squad than being desperate for quick results without proper investment in effective player development.
He said: “This is retrogressive as it means we are getting short term gratification in the game while we are systematically killing the future of Malawi football. It does not make sense to have players featuring in the Under-20 squad for over three years. They have to transition to the next stage of their development while creating space for other up-and-coming players.”
When contacted, Mabedi yesterday said he could not comment on the matter as he is still mourning the death of his wife.
His assistant Joseph Kamwendo and FAM technical director John Kaputa also refused to comment, saying Mabedi, as the head coach, is better-placed to comment.
Malawi is in Group B alongside Zambia, Namibia and Comoros Islands. Group A has hosts South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho while Angola leads three-team Group C, which also has e-Swatini and Botswana.
The top teams from each group and the best-placed runners-up will advance to the semi-finals, with the two teams that will reach the finals qualifying to the continental showpiece.