Impressed by Under-20 national football team’s performance in Angola where they turned the tables against the hosts in a 1-4 routing, Flames coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) has roped four players from the team into the senior squad that is in camp in preparation for Cosafa Cup.
An excited RVG yesterday said in an interview that he had decided to draft in Charles Thom, Hastings Banda, Charles Petro and Peter Banda into the senior national team that leaves for South Africa on Friday.
The four were instrumental in the junior Flames’ 5-3 aggregate triumph over Angola in the second round after Malawi lost 1-2 at home in the first leg.
RVG said: “After the games we played against Zambia, Swaziland and Angola, we decided that players that were outstanding in terms of maturity and leadership should be considered to join the senior team.”
The Belgian coach said this is part of his Flames’ rebuilding exercise.
Asked if this means the players will be in the Cosafa Cup final squad, RVG said it would depend on how they will respond during training.
On their homecoming at Chileka International Airport in Blantyre, a euphoric atmosphere greeted the Junior Flames as a group of supporters and officials broke into songs and dance.
The Under-20 national team players joined the frenzy alongside Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu and the leader of delegation Daudi Mtanthiko before having a welcoming ceremony.
Beaming with excitement, Nyamilandu said the fighting spirit that the Junior Flames showed in foreign land is something that lacks among most Malawians.
“This is a revolution that is surely happening underground but many people are not able to see,” he said.
The FAM president also pleaded with government through the Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kasaila to help the team with funding for the next round.
Nyamilandu said: “Just like God’s children led by Moses in the wilderness, we remain with the last hurdle against South Africa to get to the promised land and we need your support. What these children lack is motivation.”
He said after progressing to the second round at the expense of Swaziland last month, they increased the players’ game bonus from K15 000 to K100 000 each and the same happened yesterday.
Kasaila said government is proud of the team’s achievement considering that it was doubtful if they could overturn the tables in Angola after a defeat at home.
“We are ready to help you because you have the potential. Go roast South Africa and qualify for the finals. As government, we will do our best to take you overseas for camping. We will support you all the way,” he said.
Asked what motivated them to win away, the team’s captain Charles Thom said: “We were encouraged by the morale boosting messages we got through audio clips from FAM president and the the sports minister. They told us to make the country proud and we obliged.”
Junior Flames coach Meke Mwase said: “We thank FAM for giving us all the support we needed. We hope they will do the same when we meet South Africa. What we need most is a friendly before meeting the Amajita.”