Malawi national football team coach Meck Mwase is worried with the Flames travel woes that will see the bulk of the team arriving in Burkina Faso a day before tomorrow’s match against the Stallions.
The team will have also spend three days in transit by the time they touch down in Ouagadougou later today for the first leg of their back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Burkina Faso.
The Flames were thrown in turmoil on Monday when 16 players and the entire technical panel failed to connect to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from Johannesburg in South Africa enroute to Ouagadougou due to flight connection hitches.
Only six players, including four foreign-based players proceeded to Addis Ababa.
Said Mwase in an interview from Johannesburg yesterday: “It is a very worrisome situation because we will spend about three days in transit, in the process losing out on the time to have a proper rest, acclimatising and final preparations.
“But there is nothing we can do about it other than remain focused. We cannot blame anyone for the predicament.”
Confirming the predicament, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) executive member Rashid Mtelera, who is leading the Flames delegation, that includes Minister of Youth and Sports Ulemu Msungama, said: “Our trip has been affected by connection challenges.
“The local based players are still in South Africa. They will be leaving this afternoon [yesterday] for Addis and will proceed to Burkina Faso tomorrow [today].
On what led to the situation, the FAM official said: “The airline booking system had some technical challenges.”
The association’s general secretary (GS) Alfred Gunda yesterday attributed the problem to flight congestion.
He said: “When the team was leaving everything was in order, at least on our part, they only found themselves in a tight spot when they were confirming their flight to Addis.
“Even after that, we tried as much as possible to find an alternative so that the team could connect the same day, but it was difficult.
“Nevertheless, the problem has been sorted out and the team is leaving at 2pm [Tuesday].”
However, the FAM GS said other than take it negatively, the players and technical staff should pick themselves up and focus on the mission at hand.
“It’s not the first time this has happened and it has not only happened to us. And, therefore, we should take it positively and deliver in our mission,” said Gunda.
Football analyst George Kaudza Masina described the situation as unfortunate.
“This is not good for the Flames as they will not have enough time to rest and loosen up.
“This could also affect the players both physically and psychologically. FAM could have done better in the flight bookings as they knew about the game sometime back and let this be a wake-up call for the future fixtures. Otherwise, let them remain positive,” he said.
The Flames are third in the group with three points from two games. Uganda’s Cranes lead the group with four points. They are tied with second-placed Burkina Faso, but are separated by goal difference.
South Sudan anchor the four-team group with no point. Only the top two teams from each group will qualify for the tournament to be hosted by Cameroon in 2022.