While scoring is currently the Flames major handicap, Malawi national football coach Kinnah Phiri continues to turn his back on leading scorers in the top-flight TNM Super League.
Among the seven leading goalscorers in the flagship league, only Silver Strikers forward Rodrick Gonani has been called up in the Flames squad that is preparing for the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup to be staged in Uganda later this month.
Flames strikers have not scored in the last 10 games. Midfielders Joseph Kamwendo, John and Frank Banda scored two goals each in the games.
The flagship leagueâ€™s leading scorer is Bvumbwe Research forward Vincent Chinthenga, who has scored 11 goals in 17 games. Breathing down his neck is Mafcoâ€™s Oswald Mkagula with nine goals. But both are not part of the strikers in the 25-member squad of local players.
Gonani and Red Lionsâ€™ Boniface Kaulesi have scored eight goals each whereas Diverson Chilemba [Mighty Wanderers], Brown Mizeye [Blantyre United] and Charles Ngosi [Blue Eagles] have scored seven goals each.
However, Presidential Cup and Standard Bank Cup Golden Boot Award winner Gabadinho Mhango is among the six strikers that have been called up.
Azam Tigers mentor Leo Mpulula and Blantyre-based soccer fan Blessings Somanje said on Thursday there is need for Kinnah to cast his net wider in the selection of strikers considering Flamesâ€™ lack of fire-power upfront.
Said Mpulula: â€œIf a striker is a leading scorer of a national league, then he deserves national team consideration. If the striker has shortfalls, then it is up to the coach to work on them or he can advise the playerâ€™s club coach on which areas he needs to improve.â€
Somanje said good strikers are judged by the number of goals they score and, therefore, the expectation is that the leading scorers in the Super League should be considered to compete with already established names.
â€œI do not know what is his [Kinnah] criteria for choosing strikers, but the exclusion of leading scorers in the Super League raises questions, especially considering Flamesâ€™ lack of killer-punch,â€ said Somanje.
Chinthenga said he has no idea why he is no longer being called up for Flames training.
â€œAlthough I am a bit disappointed, I am not bitter because national team selection is at the discretion of the coach. Maybe in future I will be reconsidered,â€ he said.
Kinnah expressed surprise when informed that Chinthenga is still the Super League leading scorer.
â€œIs he still the leading scorer? Then, I definitely need to have another look at him because when I called him, he could not perform to the expected standards. The only drawback, though, is that we do not have enough time,â€ said Kinnah.
Asked what criteria he uses to pick strikers, Kinnah said: â€œWe look at a number of factors such as experience, consistency, composure and vision. So, it is not just about how many goals one scores because there are others who shine at a club level, but fail to reciprocate the same at a national level.â€
Bvumbwe Research patron James Chuma also expressed surprise at Chinthengaâ€™s continued exclusion.
â€œVincent was only called up once and that was it. If the coach detected weaknesses in his style, then he should have offered him tips so that he could work on them, rather than just ignore him like that,â€ said Chuma.
During the recent FAM technical subcommittee meeting, the issue of Flamesâ€™ lack of fire-power upfront was also tackled.
The committeeâ€™s chairperson Moses Mkandawire said: â€œIt was noted that, generally, the teamâ€™s level of performance has improved, but what we are lacking is a ruthless finisher in the mould of Didier Drogba, the type of player who can bang in goals.â€
Apart from Gonani and Gabadinho, the other strikers that have been called up in preparation for the Cecafa tournament are Gastin Simkonda, Chiukepo Msowoya, Green Harawa and Moses Nankumba.