Asour concortion of age-cheating and irregular junior national teams and clubs involvement in international competitions has left the Flames thread-bare; making an average Zimbabwe Warriors side look superior last Wednesday.
The irony to the 1-4 humiliation by the Warriors is that, from the terraces, most of the 2010 Flames squad that used to render the stadium a near impregnable fortress, endured the torture of the warm-up match.
“Come on guys, you can do better than this,” posted on his Facebook wall Hellings Mwakasungula who used to make the Flames’ starting XI alongside Joseph Kamwendo, Elvis
Kafoteka, Moses Chavula, James Sangala, Peter Mponda, Swadick Sanudi, Esau Kanyenda, Robert Ng’ambi, Russell Mwafulirwa and Fischer Kondowe.
From the Kinnah Phiri squad that qualified for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, only Kamwendo, Chavula, Ng’ambi, Kanyenda and Kondowe are playing at the highest level now.
Yet, save for Kafoteka, who honestly stated his age as 32 in 2010, the rest claimed to be either in mid-20s or late 20s. But age, like pregnancy, cannot be concealed forever. It, eventually, catches up with you through injuries and diminished pace.
Mponda called it time on his international career at the end of the 2010 Nations Cup, but Kinnah persuaded him otherwise and the results were bad as his legs snapped.
His return in October 2011 ended with another injury in Chad and soon his club Santos career was over. He is now the driving force behind the grooming of the next generation at Surestream Academy.
FAM’s neglect of youth development meant that the current Flames have no natural successor for Mponda to the captaincy. Sangala and Kafoteka’s retirements compounded matters.
“The problem was not with Kinnah, but FAM. You cannot go in the countryside looking for national team players. National team players are made. We used to travel by bus with the Under-20 and play in international competitions to prepare us for bigger challenges,” said Sangala.
His words proved true as two days before the match against Zimbabwe, FAM chief executive officer Suzgo Nyirenda pressed the panic button that the Under-20 team might withdrawal from the African Youth Championship. Of course, due to lack of funds.
“In the next three years, we need the Under-20 to come as the likes of Moses Chavula would have retired by that time,” Nyirenda admitted.
So, from the 2010 starting XI, only Kamwendo and Chavula played last Wednesday. Kondowe is seeing off his last years at Big Bullets. Mwakasungula, too, called it time in 2012.
Ng’ambi and Kamwendo still have the legs doing duty for Platinum Stars and TP Mazembe of South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo respectively, but time is likely to soon catch up with them.
So who would take over?
“The current FAM administration reaped the fruits of past regimes, but once this generation of the likes of Chiukepo Msowoya and Kamwendo goes, it would even be worse for the Flames. They are just concentrating on the Flames,” warned Sangala.
It is all about lack of planning or planning on paper only, noted Malawi Schools Sports Association general secretary Blackson Malamula.
“Players need to develop from Under-17 before they play for the Flames. The problem is that we do not honour our structures; we have no plan. We want short-cuts. That is why we have not achieved anything,” Malamula argued.
Upfront, Kinnah was so predictable in fielding Kanyenda and Mwafulirwa. Injuries have kept out Mwafulirwa for two years whereas Kanyenda has reinvented himself at Polokwane City in South Africa.
But Sanudi’s playing days are over.
“I am still part of the team. We have to leave a foundation for the young generation. The problem of the young Flames generation is that it plays individual football. Our squad, the one that qualified for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nationa, was like family. We played for each other,” said Mwafulirwa recently.
Dissecting the 2010 Flames side one sees the meshing of three different breeds of players — those Manfred Hoener and Alex Masanjala groomed between 1996 and 1999, the Llyod Nkwazi bunch of 2001 and 2001 and the group which John Kaputa unearthed between 2005 and 2009.
Mponda, Kondowe, Sanudi, Kanyenda were fruits of the Under-20 side groomed by Hoener. Nkhwazi and Stuart Mbolembole developed the likes of Sangala, Chavula and Ng’ambi and Kamwendo whereas Kaputa injected the likes of Limbikani Mzava, Ngalande and Gastin Simkonda.
Sadly that talent production chain is dysfunctional.