Football Association of Malawi (FAM) is banking on the financial support from the government to prepare the Junior Flames for the final qualifiers of the 2019 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) against South Africa’s Amajita this July.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said this yesterday when The Nation asked him how they plan to prepare the Under-20 national team to avoid a repeat of 2014 when the Junior Flames exited the competition at the last hurdle of qualifiers after losing to Zambia under the tutelage of Ernest Mtawali.
Then, Malawi mostly tuned up with some local friendlies.
This time around, the Junior Flames will make the grade for the finals scheduled for Niger if they beat Amajita in the last two-legged qualifiers in July following their 5-3 aggregate triumph over Angola in the second round. They lost 1-2 at home in the first leg but earned a surprise 4-1 away victory in reverse encounter on Sunday.
South Africa has progressed to the third round after dispatching Mozambique with a 4-1 win on aggregate following a 3-0 home victory in the second leg on Sunday. They drew one-all in the first leg.
“We will make sure that we are well-prepared for the match against South Africa. We will announce our plans in due course bearing in mind that the first leg is mid July,” Nyamilandu said.
“However, we need to discuss with the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development because everything hinges on funding. At the moment, FAM coffers are dry.”
According to FAM technical director John Kaputa, the Junior Flames need at least two international friendlies and a two-week camp abroad to be mentally ready for the experienced Amajita, who competed at the Under 20 World Cup last year.
The last time the Junior Flames qualified for the finals was in 1999 in Ghana and Kaputa is confident history can be repeated if all the necessary preparations are thoroughly done.
“I believe history can repeat itself if we put together necessary training sessions, [including] two international friendly matches and a camping for two weeks outside the country. The boys have all it takes to beat South Africa and progress to the finals but, now, it is just a question of being mentally ready through more international exposure,” he said.
Soccer analyst George Kaudza Masina said an improvement in preparations is the only stumbling block to the Junior Flames’ success.
“For a long time, we have always been thinking that qualification is by chance; we have not been serious with our preparations as we always wait for a miracle. The recent win against Angola should inspire FAM to do more for the Junior Flames as they prepare for the experienced Amajita. Otherwise, we will end up singing the same song of so-near-yet-so-far,” he said.
“Football lovers and the corporate world should also join hands with FAM and the government for the pride of our nation.” n