Following the Cosafa Castle Senior Challenge Cup’s return, Malawi faces a difficult choice whether to snub this year’s edition of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup and compromise future invitations as guests or go for both.
Yet, with the harmonised football calendar starting next month, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu was on Wednesday unsure whether Flames would participate in both competitions.
The calendar is supposed to reflect all club and national team fixtures for 2013.
“It is not a foregone conclusion that Cecafa will be on our calendar. We have always belonged to Cosafa and nothing has changed. We participate in Cecafa by invitations. We always seek the go-ahead from Cosafa. We are making arrangements to participate in Cosafa Cup,” Nyamilandu insisted.
The return of South African Breweries’ (SAB) sponsorship has revived the Castle Cup which last took place in 2010 in Zimbabwe. This year’s edition is scheduled for July 6 to 25 in Zambia. Cecafa cups run between November and December.
In Cosafa’s absence, the Flames sought solace in Cecafa as guest participants which gave Malawian players some international exposure as domestic clubs cannot meet the cost of CAF competitions.
Reacting to FAM’s indecisiveness on the issue, Flames captain Peter Mponda urged the local football governing body to be decisive, arguing: “If I were FAM, I would have jumped at this opportunity. With new coaches coming in, this is the fastest way to groom players for bigger challenges.”
But Nyamilandu said it was not a question of just going for competitions, but “this year we will be conscious of our calendar and so many things could come into play. We want to live within our means.”
Cecafa general secretary Nicholas Musonye recently said that “the Flames remain our number one priority guest team.” Cecafa’s other guest team options are Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Cosafa chief executive officer Sue Destombes on Wednesday nodded to the Flames participation in Cecafa “as long as they write us as a matter of courtesy”.
“I know that Cecafa do normally invite Malawi and Zambia. It is permissible to invite one or two outside teams. We are, in fact, thinking of inviting Tanzania,” Destombes said in an exclusive interview from South Africa.
Now, the challenge for FAM is that if they decide to turn its back on Cecafa, they might be overlooked for future Flames’ invitations.
Destombes said they are still negotiating for a long-term sponsorship deal with SAB which sponsors Cosafa Cup through its Castle brand of beer. Serengeti Breweries funds Cecafa Cup through its Tusker beer brand.
Malawi used to belong to Cecafa, but Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) decision to demarcate football zones in the late 1980s saw the Flames belonging to the Southern Africa football block—additional information from Cosafa website.