On Friday, when Malawi celebrated its 48th Independence Anniversary, the Flames gave the nation a beautiful Anniversary giftâ€”a 1-0 beating of Africa kings, Zambiaâ€™s Chipolopolo at a jam-packed Kamuzu Stadium.
Coach Kinnah Phiri prepared the gift and captain Joseph Kamwendo presented it through a 79th minute close-range tap in. From the VIP, guest of honour First Gentleman Retired Chief Justice Richard Banda received the gift with a rare smile, then hand-clapping .
What a celebration, which started with national prayers at Chichiri Conference Centre Hall [Comesa] led by President Joyce Banda.
The reaction from Zambia coach Herve Renard was that of outright disappointment. He growled “later, later” when a swarm of the media approached him for a post-match interview.
It took Kinnahâ€™s introduction of debutant teenage sensation Gabadini Mhango for left-back and debutant Bongani Kaipa to turn the game, which was spinning out of control, on its head in the second-half.
Mhango released John Banda on the right wing and from his cross, Zambiaâ€™s Nyambe Mulenga-led defence could only half clear the ball. Mhango pounced on the ball and from the resulting hit and miss, Kamwendo slotted the ball into the net from the near post.
The goal came after John Banda and his elder brother Frank had almost come close with long range attempts then a close range shot which Zambia third choice goalkeeper Joshua Titima did well to keep out.
Malawiâ€™s attempts came shortly after goalkeeper Charles Swiniâ€™s attempted punch of the ball over the ball backfired, with Zambia almost heading in. Thanks, Foster Namwela and Pilira Makupe were on time to sweep the ball away.
The Flames came back into the party after break having struggled in the first-half when the Chipolopolo, who featured three senior team members including defender Mulenga, keeper Titima and striker Evance Kangwa, were all over on the pitch.
With midfielder Joseph Sitola winning and passing the ball all over the pitch and turning, nervous Malawi could only chase shadows. So dominant were the visitors that they could string 12 uninterrupted passes.
For all their dominance, the Chipolopolo striking force, which Kangwa led was so blunt and in the end they got punished.
For the second game, the locals for Flames delivered the goods. Kamwendo, Namwela, the Banda brothers and Chimango Kaira were the only regulars.
“Credit should go to the home-based boys. We should support these boys. There are some foreign-based players who are around, but I decided to give these youngsters a chance,” Kinnah said.