Boos and jeers at Flames coach Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG) and his assisstant Peter Mponda yesterday overshadowed Malawi Under-23 national football team’s qualification to 2019 Under-23 Afcon second round.
RVG and Mponda joined the team’s technical panel in the second leg against Botswana at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre that ended in a 1-1 draw.
The fans felt the two would spoil the broth after the junior Flames fought gallantly to beat Botswana 2-1 in the first leg on Saturday as the senior team was losing to Comoros.
The fans chanted songs against RVG and Mponda throughout the match.
Every time the two tried to issue instructions to players, they were greeted by boos in the presence of Sports Minister Grace Chiumia and Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu.
Before the match, RVG and Mponda were warned not to sit on the bench and let Under-23 coach Meke Mwase and his assistant Bob Mpinganjira take charge, but the defiant Belgian coach ignored the threats, much to the chagrin of the fans.
“Atisokonozela team awa achoke,” the fans chanted.
But after the match, Mponda downplayed the fans chants.
“Why did they want us out of the bench when it’s us who trained that team? It’s RVG, Meke Mwase and I who picked those players,” he said.
Amid the confusion, Malawi scored first in the 66th minute only to surrender the lead in the added time.
But still, Malawi qualified on 3-2 aggregate score and face Zambia in the second round next year.
Mwase made several changes to the squad.
Goalkeeper Rabson Chiyenda paved way for senior Flames ‘keeper Brighton Munthali while left-back Precious Sambani replaced Mark Fodya.
Mike Mkwate, who started in Botswana, was also benched in favour of Ernest Tambe.
Patrick Phiri, who scored for Flames against Comoros also started.
Mwase packed the midfield with five players, including two holding midfielders Chimwemwe Idana and Tambe.
Isaac Kaliyati and Gregory Nachipo operated from the wings while Phiri played behind lone striker Chikaiko Batison.
Though Malawi enjoyed monopoly in the midfield and hitting the target proved tough for the hosts.
It was only after coach Mwase made some tactical substitutions introducing Peter Banda for injured Phiri and Francis Nkonda for Tambe that the hosts got a goal.
Banda rounded off Botswana goalkeeper Thomas Manyelera from close range, much to the relief of a small crowd that witnessed the midweek clash.
But the visitors fought back gallantly and got an equaliser in added time.
Gape Gagoangwe equalised after Munthali left this line to cut a set piece only to miss the ball.
In post match interviews, Mwase said the changes were aimed at developing players for the Flames. “We are not just looking at qualification,” he said. n