Week in week out, England coach Fabio Capello is seen on TV watching English Premier League games during which he looks for talent for the national team just like coaches for Spain, Italy and Germany who are usually seen on SuperSport following their respective domestic leagues.
Even in South Africa, Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane is seen every week watching at least one Premier Soccer League game.
But that is not the case with Malawi national football coach Kinnah Phiri who rarely watches Super League or lower division games.
Local coaches and analysts have criticised the coach for failing to build a strong local national team and failing to identify quality players for the main team because of his apparent lack of interest to watch Super League games.
Surprisingly, while the coach misses top Super League action, there are more stories in the media of the coach gracing launching ceremonies and finals of trophies sponsored by Members of Parliament in rural areas.
Just recently when Wanderers played Escom in Balaka in a top of the log clash, he was attending the finals of MP Ganda Trophy in Nsanje. Last week, as Silver played Wanderers in Lilongwe and Tigers hosted Civo in Blantyre in title deciders, the coach was in the deep banana plantations of Masambanjati in Thyolo witnessing the launch of Thyolo South West MP Dr. Allan Chiyembekeza Trophy.
But Kinnah, while admitting that he watches little Super League action, said he is well informed on the performance of players from all the matches as he has other coaches working on his behalf.
“I cannot go to every match. But I do watch Super League games. I watch games here in the South, my assistant Young Chimodzi watches games in the Central Region and we also have people in Mzuzu,” he said.
However, my inquiry shows that for the past five weeks, Kinnah has only watched two league games involving Bullets FC for which he is a trustee and patron.
Young Chimodzi was also only seen at Blue Eagles games where he is part of the technical panel.
Kinnah, however, defended his presence in rural area competitions, saying there is need to look at all avenues and not Super League alone.
“I have watched the Super League for the past four years and there is no difference. The standards are not improving and we have the same tried and tested players. We should look elsewhere like in the villages where we can get special talent we fail to get in the Super League.
“In the past, players like us were selected directly from the rural areas and performed for the national team; so, I think we can also get special talent in the villages,” he said.
Soccer analyst Moses Dossi said the coach should treat the top-flight league as priority in his search for talent.
“We only have three local-based players in the senior national team not because we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have good players, but we have failed to identify new talent because the coach does not watch games. Kinnah picks new players because of media appraisals and not really because of self-monitoring which is not healthy,” said Dossi.
Former MBC sports producer Kelvin Moyo said the coach seems to care about the national team only when the team is in camp.
“His predecessors used to watch games and take notes. Steven Constantine spotted Tawonga Chimodzi after watching him play for Silver against Wanderers and selected him for the Flames game against South Africa where he impressed and earned a move to Santos.
“There are many players who miss the chance of playing for the national team because they are not watched. How many players can Kinnah Phiri show that he picked because he personally watched them play for their clubs and not through the media? I doubt if there are any,” said Moyo.
Civo coach Alex Masanjala said because of failing to watch games, the coach sometimes calls injured and out-of-form players.
“Sometimes I get surprised when my players, who have not played football for up to two months because of poor performance, are called up for national duty. My best players and top players are ignored because the coach does not watch games. It is really a serious concern,” said Masanjala.
He added that the coach needs to discuss with clubs coaches before picking their players for national team.
“He must get advice on the behaviour, strength and weaknesses of players from club coaches before calling them for national team duty. Constant communication with club coaches is vital in addition to watching games, but that does not happen,” he said
FAM technical committee chairperson Moses Mkandawire said it is too early for him to comment on the matter as he is just a week old in the office.
“We are having our first meeting next week and this issue will be on the agenda. We really need to have a proper strategy on the activities of the coach to ensure that he monitors all players and top games as we move into the rebuilding exercise of the Flames,” said Mkandawire.
Because of not watching Super League games, Kinnah has failed to assemble a strong local based squad capable of achieving results. For two consecutive years, his local squad failed to go past the group stages of the Cecafa Senior Challenge in Tanzania.
The Flames comprising local based players also embarrassingly lost to Angola 5-2 in the 2011 African Nations Championships qualifiers and lost 1-0 to Namibia during the Independence Celebrations last year.
The team also lost 2-0 to Zimbabwe and 1-0 to Yemen in friendly games . The defeats have contributed to the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s huge slump on the Fifa rankings from 79 to 99.