Scepticism was the prevailing emotion at Chiwembe’s Mpira Village when Football Association of Malawi (FAM) yesterday unveiled Gerald Phiri Snr as Flames’ head coach with DeKlerk Msakakuona as his assistant.
However, the 49-year-old former Azam Tigers mentor has challenged sceptics that he is capable of delivering despite some arguing that he lacks experience at highest level.
“I thank FAM for entrusting me with this responsibility. I know it is not going to be easy. But I will try my best,” he said.
Phiri, who led the Under-20 to an unsuccessful campaign at Cosafa Cup in South Africa last December, said he is ready for the biggest challenge in his career.
“We will work according to what we have. We will not complain about preparations if we do not perform well against Madagascar,” said the soft -spoken coach.
But the coach has pleaded for patience from the public, saying a year is not enough for some expectations.
Phiri starts his job with an international friendly against Kenya on April 18 before the Flames’ Championship for African Nations (Chan) qualifier first leg against Madagascar in Antananarivo four days later.
Chan is for local players only and he has under three weeks before his first assignment, yet Super League players are inactive due to season break.
The coach has since released a 27-member squad to start camp on April 2.
Goalkeepers in the squad are Ernest Kakhobwe, Leman Nthala and Brighton Munthali. Defenders include Steve Chagoma, Stanley Sanudi, Lucky Malata, John Lanjesi, Miracle Gabeya, Chisomo Mpachika, Paul Ndlovu, Yamikani Fodya and Francis Mlimbika.
Midfielders called for the match are Yamikani Chester, Isaac Kaliyati, Mike Kaziputa, Chimango Kayira, Dave Banda, Rafiq Namwela, Dalitso Sailesi, Gilbert Chirwa, Harvey Nkacha, Semion Singa and Levison Maganizo.
Peter Wadabwa, Binwell Katinji, Muhammad Sulumba and Kelvin Hanganda are the strikers.
On the players’ rustiness Phiri said: “I don’t think we will have problems with fitness. Most of the players we have picked have been active at their clubs since they already started pre-season preparations.”
What about the expatriate coach?
On the appointment of an expatriate coach, FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda said the process was still on-going but for the next 12 months, Phiri is in charge.
“The nomenclature of the position will change at the time when we hire an expatriate coach, but as of now we have competitions that we have entered and we cannot just let the team to stay without a coach to lead it,” he said.
Both Phiri and Msakakuona have been engaged on year-long contracts as the association is still mulling over appointing an expatriate coach.
Phiri said he was looking forward to working with Msakakuona.
“I have worked with him when we were interim coaches for the match against China. I think we have the same football philosophy,” he said.
Msakakuona also said he was ready to continue where they left when the two led Malawi to a 2-2 draw against Chinese side Guangzhou R&F during Bingu National Stadium opening in January.
Both Phiri and Msakakuona have Confederation of African Football (CAF) A licences and Uefa B licences from Germany.
FAM GS Gunda said it was time to give Phiri and Msakakuona a chance to lead the Flames.
He said: “The appointment of these coaches was done after thorough consultations with all stakeholders. These are coaches we have trained and developed into what they are. I know people are saying they do not have experience. But what is experience? Where does someone get experience? The two [coaches] have coached our top clubs. They have also coached our junior national teams. I believe that is enough experience. ”
Gunda said the coaches have not been given targets but “the association is looking for results in the Afcon and Chan competitions which the Flames are participating.”
Southern Region Coaches Association chairperson Patrick Kulemeka said the duo is capable of delivering if given maximum support.
“They have the qualification and experience to deliver,” he said.