As the Flames face Swaziland’s Sihlangu tomorrow at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre in their last 2017 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier, it will be the first time in four Afcon editions for Flames to play a dead rubber match.
The Flames made it to 2010 Angola finals after finishing third from Group 12 that had Cote d’ Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Guinea and following the team’s qualification, hopes were high that a new era had started.
But six years later, Malawi are fighting for nothing in the last qualifier and analysts have faulted the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) for failing to develop a succession plan.
Charles Nyirenda says the writing has been on the wall for tall those years.
“The results from the last four editions have been on the downward spiral for the past six years. There was a time during coach Kinnah Phiri’s reign when Malawi was finishing the qualifierswithout a loss. The worst was a draw, but if you look at the trend now, it has been nosediving.
He attributed the development to failure to replace the school of 2010 which had stars such as Peter Mponda, Peter Mgangira, Swadick Sanudi, Hellings Mwakasungula, Russell Mwafulirwa and Esau Kanyenda.
Nyirenda said: “You will note that in the past six years these veterans have been retiring one by one. We made a big mistake of failing to replace these players yet we knew that most of them were going past their prime. If we had groomed replacements that time, we would have been talking of the performance improving and not going down.”
In 2012 qualification, the Flames finished on position three with 12 points just two behind runners-up Tunisia who qualified for the final alongside surprise leaders Botswana.
In 2013 Afcon qualification, no groups were used. Instead teams were paired against each other in a knockout format.
Malawi joined the race in the first round and beat Chad 4-3 on aggregate to advance to the second round and lost to Ghana 3-0.
In 2015 qualification, Malawi struggled against Chad and only made it to the second round on away goal rule following a threeall draw.
Malawi qualified for the group stage after beating Benin 4-3 onpenalty shoot-out after a one-all draw.
In the group stage, Malawi finished third while leaders Algeria and runners-up Mali made it to the final.
Writing in our sister paper The Nation’s My Turn, Hashim Msusa warns that the game needs a change at
“The question is: Are the bodies entrusted to spearhead football in the country doing their job?
They need to be transparent, honest, visionary and accountable. Do they embrace the need of having long-term plans for the national football team?”
He also takes a swipe at the players and questions their dedication. “Priority should be given to those players who are willing to represent our nation with determination, with sense of maturity and sense of pride that the national colours represent.”
The Flames’ performance in the 2017 qualification has been the worst in the past six years.
Malawi is the only team yet to win a game and is anchoring the group, having lost to Zimbabwe twice, Guinea once and drawn against Swaziland and Guinea.
Captain Limbikani Mzava on Thursday apologized to the nation for the performance and promised to make amends in tomorrow’s match, though a bit too late.
“Fans have supported us a lot but we have let them down. The two matches we lost at home were unacceptable and we are
sorry. But the better way to apologise is to win on Sunday. It’s not just about winning but a comprehensive win,” he said.