I wish I could share the optimism of Flames national coach Kinnah Phiri that Malawi can overturn their 2-0 defeat in Accra, Ghana last week when the Black Stars come hereâ€”or closer homeâ€”but the realist in me can hardly see this happening.
The tie could have been sorted last Saturday and the most I see us managing to accomplish in the return leg is a salvage of some pride.
Now, I would not have expected Kinnah to say anything other than rallying his troops for that improbable upset. Indeed, it is possible for Malawi to beat Ghana in the home leg. What I cannot envisage is us proceeding to the next phase of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. For a team whose major failing is to hit the back of the net, it is difficult to see where the goals we need to do so will come from.
I talked about bravery last week, but, as usual, the technical panel went the conservative way by adopting a defensive approach. Most coaches go this easy route in away matches, especially when pitted against sides they deem superior to them. I always find it self-defeating because where an away goal carries more weight there is more wisdom in trying to sneak in one than prioritising an elusive clean sheet.
So, here we are, now faced with the challenge of having to register a three-goal margin victory if we are to keep our dream alive. That would require a more offensive approach that may make us even more vulnerable at the back. Any goal we may concede in that game, therefore, would place an even bigger burden of having to score more than three goals â€” against Ghana of all teams.
Before that, however, there is a bit of domestic football to worry about. We saw Big Bullets living up to the famous saying: we came, we saw and we conquered. Collecting six points over two days in Mzuzu has proven to be a tall order for most teams and, for a team that was missing some of its more exciting talents, it was a confirmation that their resurgence is the real deal and one cannot begrudge their success.
Of course, there was the story of the sad scenes of violence involving Moyale Barracks. What is reported to have happened at Mzuzu Stadium is totally unacceptable and it is comforting to see Sulom acting swiftly although we can still argue on the severity of the penalties. I happen to belong to the camp that would have lived with even stiffer sanctions but it is commendable that action has been taken anyway.
Talk of action takes me to England where the Hillsborough disaster of April 15 1989 dominated the back and front pages this week. I was in Form 3 when this happened and did not fully appreciate the full scale of the disaster then, but over the years I have come to realise the significance of what happened and how it helped to change the face of English football. Now that the truth is out people want action.
As one apology comes after another in the wake of the report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, the more immediate action required for those 96 fallen fans is for Liverpool to get a victory at the beach ball-famous Stadium of Light in this eveningâ€™s late kick-off.