- Play down lack of international friendlies
Malawi Under-17 football team yesterday flew to Mauritius for the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Championship without playing an international friendly match and with only three players with international experience.
The Junior Flames, who won bronze in last year’s event, only had strength-testing matches with some FMB Under-20 clubs and, among the 20 players in the current squad, only Haji Wali, Innocent Nhlema and Chikondi Mbeta played in the 2016 edition.
Yet, despite not being pressurised with targets, head coach DeKlerk Msakauona believes his charges are in the right frame to bring home a gold medal after a three-week training camp.
“Of course, international friendly games are essential when fine-tuning a relatively new squad ahead of international competitions. However, the strength-testing matches we had with some local teams were equally good,” he said.
“We have young and talented players, who are hungry for success. It is our wish to improve on our last year’s performance and win the competition.”
Wali, who is the team’s captain, said they will do their best to make the country proud at the contest.
“We underwent a series of strenuous training and I do not think we have left any stone unturned to bask in the ultimate glory in Mauritius. We are not going to the competition as tourists, but to compete for honours,” the 15-year-old, who has five appearances with the Junior Flames, said.
Nevertheless, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu told The Nation yesterday that they have set no targets for the Junior Flames because the main reason of participating in the contest is to instill a fighting spirit in the youngsters so as to grow with a winning mentality.
“Let the lads go and enjoy themselves; we should let them play with pride and passion for the country without giving them undue pressure. We intend to grow and nurture the young players that have been identified to lead the senior Flames in the future,” he said.
The FAM boss said the ‘boys’ have shown that they are talented and competitive and, as such, Malawians should give them a chance to realise their full potential.
“We are instilling a fighting spirit in the players to grow up with a winning mentality. The exposure at the moment will give them the much needed experience in pursuit of excellence. We have no doubt that they will not disappoint,” Nyamilandu said.
At Cosafa, the Junior Flames are in group A alongside hosts Mauritius, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
They will play their opening game against Botswana this Saturday before taking on Zimbabwe on Monday. They will be up against the hosts in their last group match next Wednesday.
The Junior Flames last won Cosafa Under 17 Championship is 2001 when they hosted the tournament. The best achievement on the global stage was qualifying for the Under-17 World Cup in 2009, although they lost all their three group matches to Spain, USA and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The following is the squad that has travelled to Mauritius: Goalkeepers; Wongani Sabiti Bonwell Matemba and Kennedy Nankhaima: Defenders; Wali, Nhlema, Vitumbiko Nyirenda, Joseph Balakasi, Daniel Sandukira, Luciano Matewere and Hamidu Balala: Strikers; Patrick Mwaungulu, Chinsinsi Maonga, Tathedwa Willard, Auspicious Kadzongola, Newton Nsoma, Frank Titani and David Daud: Strikers; Prince Chingamcheke, Alex Tsamba and Chikondi Mbeta.