The festive season is set to be a busy period for Malawi senior and junior football teams who are participating in four competitions with the same pool of players between November and December.
The Flames will next week start preparations for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) crucial qualifier against Comoros slated for November 17 at Stade de Moroni.
On the same day, the Under-23 national football team will be away to Botswana for an Under-23 Afcon qualifier with the second leg set for Civo Stadium in Lilongwe four days later.
Meanwhile, the Under-20 are expected to participate in the Cosafa Youth Championship in Kitwe, Zambia from December 2 to14.
At the same time, the Malawi Under-17 team will also be in Botswana for Region V Games from December 7 to 16.
Apart from the Under-17 tournament, players from the other competitions are from a pool coach Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG) has assembled since 2017.
The Under-23 national team currently in camp has senior team players Brighton Munthali, Rabson Chiyenda, Charles Thom, Denis Chembezi, Precious Sambani, Levison Maganizo and Patrick Phiri.
The Under-23 also has Under-20 players such as Hastings Banda, Thom, Charles Petro, Kelvin Kadzinje and Peter Banda who RVG also includes in senior team set-up.
While the four tournaments participation means Football Association of Malawi (FAM) digging deep in its coffer, general secretary Alfred Gunda said there is no way out.
“The finances are not always there, but it’s our responsibility to ensure all teams participate in these competitions,” he said.
On the technical side, RVG, who is responsible for all national teams, said using the same players in the competitions is crucial in order for them to gain international exposure.
“They [players] are gaining experience and becoming stronger. It’s like that and we cannot change it,” he said.
But soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said putting players in double or triple roles in Under-20, Under-23 and senior team puts them at risk of burnout.
He said: “Looking at the present situation, some of these players have already played too much football. If you look at the TNM Super League, the just-ended Carlsberg Cup and the ongoing Carlsberg Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and now the Under-23 Afcon and Under-20, I am afraid it will take a toll on players,”
Apart from the players, the coaches also face the same challenge, according to Nyirenda.
Under-23 coach Meke Mwase will also lead the Under-20 at the Cosafa Under-20 in Zambia.
“The truth is that coaching is not a simple job and you cannot have one coach for Under-23 and Under-20 when the competitions are taking place simultaneously. Someone tends to lose focus,” he said.
In contrast, Botswana has different junior coaches with Rapelang Tsatsilebe in charge of the Under-20 while Under-23 is under Mogomotsi Mpote.
Mpote has opted for just two players from the senior national football team in the squad that will face Malawi.
Jwaneng Galaxy defender Thato Kebue and Township Rollers midfielder Gape Mohitsiwa are the only senior team players in the 25-player squad, according to a list posted on the Botswana Football Association website.
Meanwhile, Malawi was yesterday paired with hosts Zambia in Cosafa Under-20 Championship Group A alongside Mozambique and newcomers Reunion are the other group’s members.
Group B has defending champions South Africa, Namibia, Mauritius and e-Swatini while Group C has 2017 runners-up Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana.