Details have started trickling in on Flames’ opponents in next Saturday’s friendly to mark the opening of newly-built Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, they are Guangzhou R&F Football Club.
The Guangdong Province-based club, which is expected to arrive with a 30-member delegation on Thursday, plays in the Chinese Super League (CSL) and finished on position six in the 2016 season, according to the club’s website.
Coached by 51-year-old Serbian Dragan Stojković, the club has foreign players such as Australian forward Apostolos Giannou, Brazilian midfielders Renatinho and Junior Urso, Israeli Eran Zahayi and Japanese striker Jang Hyun-Soo.
The club had their most successful season in 2014 as they finished third in the CSL and qualified for the 2014 Asian Champions League under former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Initially, Flames were supposed to play the Chinese national football team, the Dragons, however, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) revised the Flames squad after it transpired that they would play a club.
Commenting on the club, analyst Charles Nyirenda warned that Guangzhou R&F would not be a walkover.
“Big-name signings are flocking to China because of big monies in that country. Don’t expect that they will be a pushover. As you can see, they have big names in the club. The fact that they play in the Chinese Super League, should let you know that they are not a small team,” he said.
But FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda said the focus should not be on the result, but rather exposing the up-and-coming players.
“We know it is a strong side as it plays in Asian Champions League. But the most important thing is that we should expose these up-and-coming player at international level,” he said.
Other famous players currently under big contracts in China are Ezequiel Lavezii, Ramires, Pappis Cisse, Gervinho, Asamoah Gyan, Graziano Pelle, Oscar and Demba Ba.
Top coaches such as Marcello Lippi, Eriksson, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Manuel Pellegrini, Gustavo Poyet and Andre Villas-Boas have also flocked to China. The Dragons’ are 81st on Fifa ranking. n