For the first time, four teams from the Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) bloc have qualified for the 2019 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) and the Flames will continue to be mere spectators.
South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Madagascar have made the grade for the continental showpiece to be played from June 21 and July 19 in Egypt following their success in the just completed qualifiers after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) adopted a resolution in 2017 to expand the contest from 16 teams to 24 outfits.
Other Cosafa teams Lesotho and Comoros missed qualification by a whisker.
Football analyst Charles Nyirenda and seasoned coach Yasin Osman say it is a cause for worry to learn that, despite Afcon’s expansion, the Flames have missed the train yet teams that mostly played second fiddle to Malawi in the Cosafa bloc have made it.
“The countries that have made it may not necessarily be better than us, per se, in technical terms, but it could be due to a number of factors such as being in groups with easier-to-deal-with opponents, luck and better players,” said Nyirenda.
“However, as long as we do not have players in Europe, we should count ourselves out of contention if grouped with teams that have such footballers. Quality always matters. Yes, once in a while we might stumble on victory, but that cannot happen consistently if we are up against sides with more skilful players based overseas.”
He said Flames expatriate coach Ronny van Geneugden has not helped matters by being too much into trial and error, which he said is a sign of “questionable competence at his job to an extent.”
“The combination of low quality players and questionable competence of the coach can hardly produce positive outcomes,” said Nyirenda.
Osman said the Flames will continue to be mere Afcon spectators if they will not learn to take one step at a time, especially by first strategising on winning smaller competitions such as Cosafa Cup and Championship of African Nations (Chan).
“Before we set our eyes on qualifying for Afcon, we should excel at Cosafa, which is a stepping stone. At present, we have new youthful players that need to be frequently and effectively used to achieve that feat,” he said.
Other teams which are considered as continental make-weights, but have qualified for the continental showpiece are Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania. n