The Malawi national football team will not play international friendly matches ahead of the back-to-back 2017 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying matches against Guinea this month-end, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has announced.
FAM general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda said they arranged to take on Mali and Sierra Leone before the two meetings with Guinea away on March 25 and at home on March 29, but the Confederation of African Football’s decision to change dates for the qualifiers has affected their plans.
“We have no option but to cancel the international friendly matches because the recommended dates were too close to our qualifying matches against Guinea,” he said.
Flames head coach Enerst Mtawali said yesterday the development has put them in an awkward situation.
Mtawali said the international friendly matches could have been effective in assessment of local players who have not been playing competitive matches since the TNM Super League concluded almost three months ago.
He, however, said the technical panel will make do with the three friendly matches they have organised against local clubs, including last Wednesday’s encounter that saw them beating Mighty Be Forward Wanderers 3-1 at Chiwembe Technical Centre Ground.
During the local friendly match, Chiukepo Msowoya grabbed a brace while Jabulani Linje scored the other goal for the Flames. Luka Milanzi scored Wanderers’ consolation goal.
“We are now in an unfortunate situation because the international friendlies could have been ideal for assessing the fitness levels of our local players, who last played competitive matches in December 2015,” Mtawali said.
“Nevertheless, the three friendly matches against local clubs will still help us out. When we faced Wanderers last Wednesday, I noted that the fitness levels of at least seven players have improved and that is a good progress ahead of the return matches against Guinea.”
In spite of that, Mtawali said the late arrival of South Africa based players Gabadinho Mhango, Robert Ng’ambi, Robin Ngalande and Limbikani Mzava, who will not be released by their respective clubs until March 20, is also a concern.
“Gaba is having a game on March 19 with his new club Golden Arrows while Ngambi, Ngalande and Mzava will be engaged as Platinum Stars and Mpumalanga Black Aces face off on March 20. This means these players will be available at least three or four days before the Guinea game,” Mtawali said.
However, he said it is good that Mozambique based players such as Joseph Kamwendo, Chimango Kayira and Charles Swini will join the squad after their club matches scheduled between March 12 and 15.
According to Flames team manager Clement Kafwafwa, Kayira and Swini are expected to be in the country next Wednesday while Kamwendo and Zicco Mkanda will arrive on Thursday.
Mtawali is yet to announce a final squad of 20 players for the back-to-back qualifiers.
A total of 30 players, including 12 foreign-based players were called into camp.
But 29 players will be available for selection following Pilirani Zonda’s injury during training few days ago. n