Despite chalking their first win of the campaign against Swaziland’s Sihlangu (1-0) on Sunday, the Flames still finished at the bottom of Group L in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations’ qualifiers.
The Flames, who finished the four-team group with five points from six games, had a chance to go up to third had Zimbabwe’s Warriors won their last game against Guinea’s Syli Nationale away in Conakry on Sunday night.
However, Zimbabwe lost the match 1-0 which led to Guinea finishing on third position with eight points. Nevertheless Zimbabwe still emerged top of the group with 11 points, three points clear of runners-up Swaziland.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe are the only team from the Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) bloc to qualify for Gabon 2017.
Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Senegal, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, DR Congo, Togo and hosts Gabon are the other teams that have sailed through.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu, who is also Cosafa executive member, said: “We need to raise our footballing standards starting from the grassroots and adopt a competitive style of play with sound tactical discipline.”
“The gap is huge and a cause for concern. It must be bridged to give more Cosafa nations a chance of qualifying for Nations Cup and, ultimately, the World Cup.”
On his part, soccer analyst Humphrey Mvula said the development speaks volumes about the state of football in the region.
He said: “We have not invested in the production of players through the promotion of junior teams so that senior national teams have a continuous production of players that are graduating into the national team.
“We have also not promoted investment into football, both in capacity building for coaches, referees and football administrators as well as finding the best funding methods that would enhance the promotion of football.
“Football authorities seem to be struggling to convince political governments for respective political leaders to adopt deliberate policies that would promote the game. For this to happen, football associations should come up with coherent strategic plans on football administration and these plans should define roles and responsibilities for stakeholders.”