Malawi football dream of exporting more players to Europe is increasingly becoming faint as the number of Malawians there has drastically declined from six to just one: Tawonga Chimodzi based in Greece.
Chimodzi plays at second-tier side Iraklis Psachna, Clement Kafwafwa retired in Denmark, Dan Chitsulo is on his swansong in Germany whereas Esau Kanyenda, Robin Ngalande and Russell Mwafulirwa returned to South Africa from Russia, Spain and Sweden respectively.
“We must do something to attract the scouts. It is not easy because of our low ranking. People underrate Malawi,” said Chitsulo in an exclusive interview this week.
Domestic clubs and junior national teams’ failure to regularly participate in international competitions starves local players of opportunity to be spotted by European scouts.
The problem has been compounded by the continued decline on Fifa rankings of the Flames who are currently pegged at position 114 out of 207 ranked national teams in the world. Analysts say clubs in Europe go for players from top-70 ranked countries.
The experts say more football exports to Europe could help improve the Flames’ performance. Zambia, who are the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations kings draw Emmanuel Mbola, Jacob Mulenga, Stoppira Sunzu, Nathan Sakala and Emmanuel Mayuka from top European clubs.
Local scouts Felix Ngamanya Sapao and Ben Chiwaya have since warned that unless Malawi clubs and youth national teams participate in continental and world competitions, it would be difficult for local players to be marketed in Europe.
“How many players have we exported to Europe in the last three years compared to Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe? There is no one to take. Honestly, we have to invest much in youth football. The target in Europe is for Under-18 and Under-20 players,” said Chiwaya.
In a separate interview, Sapao seemed to agree with Chiwaya that European clubs hardly sign players who are aged above 20 for fear that they might not be trainable.
“Clubs look for players who have gone through developmental stages, those who have learnt the basics. We have academies such as Surestream, but it is not known outside Malawi,” Sapao noted.
The Flames draw most of their players from Mozambique (13) and South Africa (eight).
Chimodzi had not responded to a questionnaire asking as to what it took for him to secure a move from Santos of South Africa and what he is learning from Greece football.
In the 1980s, Malawi had the likes of Kennedy Malunga and his late brother Holman playing in Belgium. Ernest Mtawali played in France and Argentina while John Maduka had a stint in Norway.