Malawi’s loss to Guinea in an Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier was yet another stark reminder of the troubling times the Flames is swimming in when playing at home, the Kamuzu Stadium, which was once a fortress—a no-go-zone for visitors.
It seems as if the country’s oldest stadium is crumbling, so is the Flames self-confidence.
Last Tuesday, the Flames’ body language, as they came out of the tunnel going onto the playing field, was that of a team void of self belief as if they were playing away.
Perhaps that is what made Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda to conclude even before the game started, that Malawi would lose.
“Actually, I told the coach and his staff that they would lose. It’s not that I wished the team bad, but they just did not have that confidence in them. The morale was down. You can tell a team is going to win just by looking at them. This time it wasn’t in them,” explains Nyirenda.
Even Guinea assistant coach Laurent Hatton noted that the Flames lacked that spark.
“The Malawi that we played in Guinea and the one we played today is different. They were much better in Conakry. Today they didn’t play to win. They didn’t know whether they should attack or defend. They stayed in between two positions,” Hatton observed after the game.
On Tuesday, coach Ernest Mtawali used senior players like Chiukepo Msowoya, Harry Nyirenda, Limbikani Mzava, Micium Mhone, Robert Ng’ambi, Chimango Kayira, Gabadinho Mhango and John Banda.
The senior players were expected to instill confidence in up-and-coming players like Isaac Kaliyati, Stanley Sanudi and Brighton Munthali. It never happened.
Instead Malawi were a shadow of themselves as they allowed the visitors to control the game, more especially in the second half.
Football official David Kanyenda observed that the team lacked concentration.
“The match was lost when the team lost concentration and conceded a late equaliser during the first half stoppage time. Buoyed by the equaliser, Guinea returned into the second half a rejuvenated side while the Flames spirits were dampened by the soft goal. Guinea had the psychological edge over us especially in the second half,” observes Kanyenda.
The Flames have played 10 competitive games at Kamuzu Stadium between 2013 and 2016, they have lost four, won four and drew two.
In 2013, Malawi never lost at home in a competitive match. The Flames drew 0-0 against Namibia and held Kenya to a two-all draw in World Cup qualifiers.
In 2014 Malawi lost once to Algeria (0-2) in Afcon and beat Chad (2-0), Benin (4-3), Ethiopia (3-2) and Mali (2-0).
In 2015, Malawi beat Tanzania 1-0 in World Cup qualifier second leg, but failed to qualify for the next round after losing 2-0 in Arusha. The Flames then lost 2-1 to Zimbabwe in Afcon and the poor home record continued this year with Tuesday’s 1-2 loss to Guinea.
The Flames have lost both home fixtures against Guinea and Zimbabwe and drew in away matches against Swaziland and Guinea.
General secretary Nyirenda thinks it is time to do some soul searching on what is behind Malawi’s loss of potent when playing at home.
“I think it is time we looked at all the factors that could be behind this trend. No just the coach, the players let’s look beyond such things and find out what is behind Malawi’s recent poor home record,” said Nyirenda. n