Constrasting views have been thrown into fray for Flames’ continued struggles in competitive away matches.
In the past 11 years, Flames have been poor travellers, winning only four competitive matches in as many games and most of them against weaker teams. They have also won a few matches at neutrall venues in regional tournaments such as Cosafa and Cecafa.
According to records, in 2003 the Flames beat Ethiopia 3-1 in the preliminary round of the 2006 joint World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Botswana 1-0 during the 2001 Cosafa Cup, 3-0 against Djibouti in 2008 during the 2010 joint World Cup and Afcon qualifiers and 1-0 against Namibia last year during the 2014 World Cup qualifier.
Former Flames midfielder Peterkins Kayira blamed the Flames’ away record on lack of commitment on the part the players. He also blamed officials for poor planning whereas former Flames captain Peter Mponda said his charges were psychologically affected when playing away.
“During our time we were very dedicated. We realised the importance of donning national colours and we always gave out something extra for the cause of our country.
“Now the situation is totally different. Most players are just contented flying out for site-seeing and getting allowances. They do not realise the importance of representing their country,” said Kayira, one of the best midfielders who played for the Flames in the 1980s.
Kayira also said current players even have the luxury to misbehave during foreign trips.
“During our days, discipline was paramount. It was a privilege to play for the national team. Perhaps that was why we were able to do well when playing away. Of course, we lost some games, but the trend was not as bad as it is now,” he said.
He also blamed some officials for poor attitude.
“I am sorry to say this, but there is no spirit of inclusion on those that are running the game today. They do not seem keen on learning how their predecessors were running the game in those days.
“Success does also not just come. There are a number of factors that come into play such as studying how your opponents play at home and arranging the right friendly matches; not playing Tanzania when you are preparing for Nigeria. Engaging weather experts on ideal venues for training. Psychologists and nutritionists are other important stakeholders who are ignored these days,” said Kayira.
Mponda, who played for the Flames between 1998 and 2012, believes there is a psychological effect.
“I think it has crept into the players’ minds that we do not win away so much that when we step on the pitch we are already a beaten side.
“Of course, you are always at a disadvantage playing away because of a number of factors such as mind games and intimidating atmosphere, but if you have the big heart you are able to come out of a battle bruised, but triumphant,” he said.
Mponda, who captained Flames for seven of the 13 years that he played for the senior national team, added: “It needs self-belief in the whole system—from officials to the players. Self-belief brings confidence and in turn nurtures success.”
Soccer analyst and former FAM CEO Charles Nyirenda said most of the times, the Flames are afraid of taking risks.
“Of course, when you are playing away you need to be cautious, but of late our coaches have adopted a more defensive approach and as a result, you are forced into rearguard action like it was in the recent return leg against Chad. We were three goals down at interval and only woke up from our slumber in the second-half in which we got that priceless away goal.
“Germany proved a few weeks ago that it is possible to win convincingly away from home. They did not do it against an ordinary team, they did it against Brazil. So, there is need to be brave. Attack while being cautious in defence. There is no guarantee that just because you are playing at home, you will win,” said Nyirenda.