Malawi under-20 national football team coach Patrick Mabedi says his target is to win the Cosafa tournament to qualify for the 2021 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
The Junior Flames this afternoon roll out their campaign at the 2020 Cosafa Under-20 Championship with a tricky fixture against Comoros at Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
After a scrappy appearance of the Under-17 national team at the 2020 Under-17 Championship, the onus is now on the Under-20 to redeem Malawi’s battered football image.
Mabedi said his charges are aware of their responsibility, going into the first Group B match against the Islanders.
He said: “Everyone is excited and we are looking forward to do it. We have ambitions of qualifying for Africa Cup of Nations.”
The former Kaizer Chiefs coach, who will be in charge of the team at the Cosafa Championship for the first time, admitted that it will not be a stroll in the park.
Said Mabedi: “Comoros is a good side. Even their senior team is doing well. We also expect their Under-20 to be good as well. But the boys will give their best. The target is to win the cup. We want to be a little bit motivated and have something that we never had for a long period.”
Captain Hadji Wali said they are ready to die for their country.
“We know the country is expecting us to do well. Throughout the three weeks training, we have been listening to what our coaches want us to do,” he said.
Malawi’s second game will be against Namibia on Monday before facing defending champions Zambia two days later.
The Junior Flames thrashed Comoros 4-0, but were held by Botswana before a loss to Zambia in the last group match under coach Peter Mponda during the 2019 campaign.
This year Mabedi has made a few changes to the squad. He has assembled a team of both experienced and up-and-coming players.
Wali is the most experienced player in the squad having been to the Cosafa tournaments several times with Under-17 and Under-20 national teams.
Other TNM Super League players include Hastings Banda (Kamuzu Barracks), Innocent Nhlema (Silver), Joseph Balakasi (Ntopwa FC), Zebro Kalima (Silver), Aubrey Maloya (Be Forward Wanderers), Stanley Billiat (Bullets) and Maxwell Paipi (Silver).
But the coach’s torchbearer is Spain-based Racing Akra striker Zizwa Hanjahanja.