While Football Association of Malawi (FAM) is struggling to organise a strength-testing match for the Flames, their next opponents in 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Guinea, are in Rwanda at the Africa Nations Championship (Chan) finals.
Guinea’s Syli Nationale on Tuesday qualified for the quarter-finals of the tournament after beating Nigeria’s Super Eagles 1-0.
Flames’ fellow Group L members Zimbabwe are also in Kigali for the continental showpiece for locally based players alongside other Confederation of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) members Zambia and Angola.
The two are part of the 16 teams that qualified for the 2016 Chan finals while Malawi pulled out of the competition due to lack of funds.
The Flames play Guinea in Afcon back-to-back qualifiers in March before travelling to Zimbabwe to face the Warriors in June.
FAM has since described Malawi’s failure to participate in Chan as a big setback to Flames’ rebuilding exercise.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said: “I wish we had that luxury. It’s painful indeed to miss out on such competitions when we could have done better compared to some of the teams.
“This makes us lose out [on] opportunities for exposure of players and team building in terms of tactical discipline.”
He, however, said the association is often placed between a rock and a hard place because inadequate funding from government forces the association miss out on such competitions.
“The limiting factor is inadequate funding and we have to live within our budget by prioritising activities. We will need a substantial increase in funding and sponsorship to be able to participate in such critical competitions, otherwise, we would be at risk of withdrawing from competitions due to lack of funds and face the wrath of penalties from Fifa and Confederation of Africa Football [CAF],” Nyamilandu said.
FAM opted to participate in 2015 Cosafa and 2017 Afcon and forego Chan after weighing the options it had with a budget of K120 million.
But pulling out of the competition came with consequences as CAF imposed fines on FAM.
FAM general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda said the current situation should be food for thought for the association.
“In future, I think we need to participate in Chan at all cost,” said Nyirenda.“We can do without these other competitions, but if we want to build a formidable side, then Chan should be a must.”
Flames coach Ernest Mtawali recently complained that preparations for the qualifiers against Guinea would be affected by professionals’ lack of game time and Super League break.
“The fact that Guinea are taking part at the Chan tournament gives them an edge,” he said.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda observed that the odds are stacked against the Flames in Afcon qualification.
“Just imagine local players are on recess. The foreign legion constitutes players who are often not featured. It does not require a genius to see that the odds are stacked against the Flames,” he said.