The Malawi Under-17 national football team coach Deklerk Msakakuona has welcomed Football Association of Malawi (FAM) decision to start preparations for the 2023 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) Youth Championship qualifiers.
FAM, in conjunction with the National Youth Football Association (NYFA) and the Malawi Schools Sports Association (Massa), yesterday announced that from tomorrow they will embark on a nationwide talent identification exercise to select players for the Under-17 squad that will also compete at the 2021 and 2022 Cosafa Championships.
The Malawi Under-17 national team has not qualified for the continental showpiece for the last decade as they last made the grade in 2009, when they settled for a fourth place.
They failed to qualify in 2013, withdrew in 2017 and stuttered last year. They did not take part in the qualifiers in 2011 and 2015.
Msakauona believes the early player-identification exercise would be essential in building a strong team as players will be together for a longer period.
“Previously, including last year, we struggled during the Afcon Youth qualifiers because we were always picking a new team,” he said.
“This time around, we will take a team that is exposed and experienced, having played together for at least two years.”
The coach said they want to give chance to talent from all corners of the country and will be looking for players born between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2007.
FAM competitions and communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka said the exercise will start at district level with clusters comprising two or three districts with each cluster coming up with a squad of 20 players that will then compete at regional level.
He said district coaches and officials from the NYFA and Massa will handle the district clusters phase.
“Msakakuona and his technical team will then handle the regional exercise between 5 and 6 June before the panel comes up with 30 players for a national camp between 8-12 June,” said Zakazaka.
Massa president Blackson Malamula said they are ready to help FAM and NYFA come up with talents of the required age group through the talent exercise.
“We already have data pertaining to the ages of all the players in our fold and we are happy that FAM has thought it wise to engage us in this exercise,” he said.
The Junior Flames are expected to compete at this year’s Cosafa Under-17 tournament, which will be played as part of the Region 5 Games in Lesotho in December.
The team is then expected to host the 2022 Region 5 Games, which will be used for the 2023 Afcon Youth qualifiers.