At the Italia ‘90 World Cup, Cameroonian legend Roger Milla, then 38, an old man in the twilight of a distinguished international career, took the global showcase by storm when he scored remarkable four goals which inspired the Indomitable Lions to the quarter-finals, the first African team to achieve the feat.
And this afternoon, recalled Malawi’s own veterans Esau Kanyenda and Fischer Kondowe, who are also in the swansong of their careers, will be hoping to borrow a leaf from Milla and inspire the Flames when they face Mali’s Eagles in the quest to revive their 2015 Africa Cup of Nations’ qualification campaign.
Thousands of fans will troop to Kamuzu Stadium this afternoon hoping that Kanyenda and Fischer will turn back the hands of time with a polished performance of the archives to turn things around and give them reason to smile. They will be hoping to see the image of their team with its backs to the wall, defying the odds and, not only succeeding in its mission, but turning on a grand show.
Despite their five-star show at club level, the Flames coaching panel kept on turning a blind eye on the duo, but with the team’s qualification hopes now hanging in the balance, coupled with public outcry, Chimodzi was forced to swallow his pride and has turned to the two seasoned players for salvation.
Chimodzi believes Kanyenda and Fischer could play a pivotal role in rejuvenating the Flames’ campaign.
“Both are looking sharp and their experience is vital. Their performance has been impressive and that is why they are back in the squad and we are looking up to them to make a difference,” said Chimodzi.
He added that the Flames have nothing to lose and will start at full-throttle.
“It is a difficult game, very tough because Mali will also come flat out for a win, but we will fight to the end,” said Chimodzi
Kanyenda and Fischer said they are aware of the expectation from a nation hungry for success and they are prepared to give out something extra for the cause of their motherland.
“It is not about proving a point really. It is about making a difference for a national cause.
I am hoping that my current form and a touch of experience should add value to the team,” said Kanyenda.
Fischer said he has confidence that Mali can be beaten.
“I know we will be the centre of attention, but it is about team work. For one to deliver, you need to be complemented by team-mates because this is a team game, but we are ready to fight,” he said.
While Chimodzi is keeping his possible line-up under wraps, from the team’s preparations in the countdown to the showdown, recalled goaltender Charles Swini is tipped to guard the posts. In defence, Harry Nyirenda is set to partner fellow South Africa-based defender Limbikani Mzava. in central defence, Francis Mulimbika and John Lanjesi are likely to feature as left and right wing defenders respectively.
Fischer returns to orchestrate play from the right flank with captain Joseph Kamwendo driving forward with his deceptive runs from the other flank.
Robert Ng’ambi, is set to keep the engines running in central midfield with workhorse Chimango Kayira playing just behind him as a midfield shield whereas Kanyenda and probably Gabadinho Mhango or Robin Ngalande will lead the attack.
The Flames anchor Group B with three points from four games having won only one match against Ethiopia (3-2). Algeria already secured the top slot with 12 points, having won all their games. Mali are second on six points. Ethiopia, just like the Flames, have three points, but have a better goal aggregate.
While the Flames lost both their previous meetings against Mali, they will find solace in the Eagles’ loss to Ethiopia at home in the same campaign last month.