Experienced career coach and teacher, Eddington Ng’onamo is the man Football Association of Malawi (FAM) thinks can, with the help of inexperienced Patrick Mabedi and Ernest Mtawali, fix the broken Flames.
Yet, there is no guarantee, that in the first place, their predecessors Kinnah Phiri and Young Chimodzi actually left anything worth calling a national team.
There are also no indicators that the tools needed to fix the broken Flames are there, let alone whether such tools will be provided. And yet Malawians just want the Flames fixed. How Ng’onamo does it, is none of their business.
Like President Joyce Banda, Ng’onamo has inherited a mess. And there will be no honeymoon.
Results are what matters to fans
The fans want results when the Flames travel to Namibia next month for 2014 World Cup qualifier, a trip to Nigeria follows then the Brave Warriors travel to Malawi between March and September.
“It is going to be a gradual progress to get to the winning ways,” Ng’onamo told Zodiak Broadcasting Station’s Saturday morning sports programme.
The big question, according to analysts, is not whether or not Ng’onamo has the pedigree and credentials for such a task, but if the football fraternity has the patience to wait a little longer for yet another rebuilding.
Before Ng’onamo’s hiring on Wednesday, the man, who is still presumed Flames captain Peter Mponda, put the national team matter in perspective.
“The new coach has to realise that he is inheriting a team that needs phasing out; a team in transition. The new coach will need time to rebuild the team. Yet, he will have to cope with the fact that there will simply be no such time,” the Surestream Academy director observed.
Surely, the Flames fans have for a long time heard the rebuilding talk, now they hardly believe it. They think it is simply buying time and excuses to justify failure.
Flames fan Yona Malunga last week told a local radio station that Ng’onamo simply has to deliver. No excuses will be entertained. Kinnah, too, was subjected to the same impatience even after his 2010 Africa Cup of Nations qualification feat.
The Flames still worth the name?
The other big issue is whether there is indeed a team worth the Flames’ name. If you ask football scout Kondie Msungama, he will tell you “there is need to start afresh with the Flames, if there is a team at all.”
The only inform Flames players are Simplex Nthala, who was voted Mozambique goalkeeper of the year. In defence, only Harry Nyirenda and Limbikani Mzava play regularly for their clubs.
In midfield, there are no wingers to give the Flames depth. Holding midfielder Hellings Mwakasungula has never been replaced. Upfront, there is no striker to score regularly. It is clear the only solution for the Flames would be developing home-based players.
Ng’onamo may also find some options in Mozambique-based players, who were undermined by previous coaches. In short, Flames’ fielding, formation and tactics need a rethink.
There is need for some tactical variation and sophistication playing not only to the Flames’ strength, but being able to react to the nature of opposition. Flames need a coach who establishes rapport with Super League coaches; a coach who takes interest in domestic games.
Listening to comments, it is clear that few believe the exit of Kinnah and Chimodzi and Ng’onamo’s entrance would translate into instant results.
Many believe as long as government does not up its financial support to the Flames, as long as youth national football teams are starved of exposure, the lurch from one football crisis to another will continue.
“There is a lot that has to be done. It is not only about bringing in a new coach,” argued football expert Ben Chiwaya. “There is need for serious investment in youth football.”
Like many, Chiwaya has no qualms about the coming in of Ng’onamo, who has just served a number of positions in sports–from being regional sports officer, athletics coach, assistant to Dane Kim Splidsboel, FAM technical director to a successful coach with Mighty Wanderers and of late Big Bullets.
Any hope in Mabedi, Mtawali?
But questions arise on whether Mabedi and Mtawali, men with no proven top level club coaching pedigree, can translate with the Flames. At this level, no experiments are entertained.
“Mtawali and Mabedi have played football at the highest level, but for their coaching experience, let others comment,” Chiwaya said diplomatically.
But Mabedi believes otherwise: “If you cannot invest in the youth like us, then there is no future for the national team.”
Mabedi and Mtawali will surely learn from Ng’onamo who has seen it all. He has fixed Bullets. He has a rich resume, international exposure and an assuring calm that rubs off on players. But he needs more, including luck.
It is a tough job. He may need a tough skin.