A failed World Cup bid, the Cecafa Senior Cup nightmare and fading Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon)qualification dreams sum up Ernest Mtawali’s first year as Malawi national team coach.
Under him, Flames were kicked out of the World Cup finals race in the preliminary round after losing to Tanzania 2-1.
Malawi was eliminated in the quarterfinals at Cecafa last November.
Ahead of this afternoon match away to Zimbabwe, the Mtawali boys anchor the Afcon qualifying Group L with a pitiful two points. A loss or draw will confirm Malawi’s elimination.
The match at the National Sports Stadium in Harare will be Mtawali’s 13th after his appointment in June last year as caretaker coach before being employed permanently two months later.
In the past 12 months, the former midfield king has recorded a 33.3 percent win rate having won four of 12 matches, drawn two representing 16.7 percent and has lost six matches which represents 50 percent.
Before him, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) sacked Young Chimodzi after registering a 23 percent win rate and Flames loss to Zimbabwe in the 2017 Afcon qualifying opener, more than anything, sealed his fate.
Assessing the coach’s performance, former Flames mentor Yasin Osman backed Mtawali as the right man for the job while attributing Flames’ underachievement under his rule to lack of financial support and criticism towards his team rebuilding exercise.
He said Mtawali deserves a lengthy stay as coach for being brave in his team rebuilding mission. Among the youthful players he has drafted into the team are Silver Strikers goalkeeper Brighton Munthali, Bullets defender Miracle Gabeya, midfielder Dalitso Sailesi, Be Forward Wanderers winger Isaac Kaliyati and wing back Stanley Sanudi. They have all featured in competitive matches.
Osman said Mtawali had no choice but to dump his rebuilding initiative as the nation yelled for good results instantly:
“The situation was becoming difficult for the coach to stick to the inexperienced players. As a result he, at some point, recalled more old faces. This disrupted the gelling of the youthful players,” he said.
But football analyst Charles Nyirenda said the coach has been tactically incompetent having failed to establish a regular first 11 during the 12 matches he has managed.
“The head coach was inexperienced resulting in no steady team whose starting lineup we can’t predict. Again, the quality of players is below par, and we have a bad youth players development module whereby the transition of players is shabby to say the least,” he said.
However, Mtawali dismissed Nyirenda’s analysis, arguing that, over the period he has been working out on players’ combination.
“I needed, at least one year to work with the players and know their strength and weaknesses. Now I am heading into a period where I will easily know who and who should be a regular in my side,” he said.
Osman and Nyirenda share the same sentiments on lack of funding for the national team.
Said Osman: “Just imagine we failed to play a friendly match against Botswana as part of preparations for the Zimbabwe match. Should we be surprised when the team fails to do well?”
After financial problems had reached the harsh levels in the buildup to the games against Guinea, FAM took its begging plate to South Africa-based Prophet Shepherd Bushiri who pumped in K40 million into the team.
Mtawali’s year-long deal expires in August and as the wind down continues, FAM’s head of the technical committee James Mwenda, who is also the association’s vice-president, said Mtawali’s contract did not have any targets since his main task was to re-build the team. n