Football Association of Malawi (FAM) technical committee chairperson James Mwenda has admitted that the Flames’ rebuilding process has lost direction due to the inactivity of Under-17 and Under-20 national teams.
Mwenda, who is also FAM first vice-president, said this in response to Nation on Sunday inquiry into the reasons the senior national team lacks consistency in squad selection unlike the class of 2010, which qualified for the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Angola after playing together for at least three years.
According to Mwenda, things could have been different had the junior national teams been involved international engagements, where newly identified talents could have gained international exposure.
This year, the Under-17 national team has failed to take part in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Championship due to lack of funds while the Under-20 side has not been active since it was booted out of the 2015 Afcon Youth Championships qualifiers in August 2014.
Mwenda said the senior national team has now become more of a laboratory for testing new talent than a side capable of contesting for titles in major competitions.
“We are identifying a lot of talent but they lack a platform to gain international exposure as the junior national teams are inactive due to lack of funds. This is why we force ourselves to frequently give such players opportunities in the senior team.”
“Although we are facing challenges, we are slowly but surely phasing out the old squad and coming up with a new team that will play together for a long time,” Mwenda said.
He said at present, 40 percent of the squad was identified from Under-20 with the likes of Stanley Sanudi, Brighton Munthali, Gerald Phiri Junior, Dalitso Sailesi, Miracle Gabeya and Isaac Kaliati, among players that graduated from junior Flames.
Flames coach Ernest Mtawali agreed with Mwenda that they are facing challenges to rebuild a strong and consistent Flames squad.
“Without the junior sides, we are finding it tough to smoothly rebuild the Flames. Nevertheless, we do not have any other option than to rope the new talent into the senior team,” said Mtawali, who shelved a Flames rebuilding exercise in 2015 following pressure from football stakeholders to incorporate experienced players in his squad.
Football analyst Charles Nyirenda said the country is paying the price for lacking a youth develoment strategy.
He said: “We were supposed to start serious rebuilding process immediately after our 2010 Afcon participation when most of the senior players had passed their prime. In spite of that, we can start the proper rebuilding exercise now. The problem is that in Malawi, we are fond of looking for overnight results.” n