Despite staying idle for eight months, the Malawi national women football team will leave for Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Women’s Cup in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe next week without playing an international strength-testing match.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and National Women’s Football Association (NWFA) have since contradicted each other on the reason behind the setback.
FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda said lack of resources is the main reason while NWFA chairperson Severia Chalira said they did not have enough time to organise the international friendly matches.
The team, which leaves for Zimbabwe next Saturday, will only play against Blantyre FMB Under-20 League and Under-17 teams while their Group A opponents, defending champions Zimbabwe, Zambia and Madagascar, have been playing regular international matches for the past two years.
Malawi has played only two international matches; against Tanzania in November 2015 and Zambia in December 2016 and lost both games 0-2 and 2-3, respectively.
Head coach Stuart Mbolembole said it would be a tall-order for the team to do well at Cosafa Cup.
He said: “Players get used to pressure of playing in international competitions if they, at least, have an international friendly. Of course, our girls will catch up with the pace and fitness through the local matches against the young boys, but that would not exert the necessary pressure required on the international stage.”
But Gunda said Fifa funds for women’s football are not enough.
“We could have loved to have an international friendly before the tournament but it all goes down to lack of resources. We cannot say we can arrange a friendly with South Africa because the funds we depend on for women football from Fifa do not allow us that,” he said.
“Our plan was to at least play a friendly against Zimbabwe upon arrival at the tournament but, unfortunately, this would not be possible as we are paired with the hosts in our group.”
Chalira said the two-week camping period is not enough to arrange an international friendly and that their easy option for such an encounter was Zambia, who are “unfortunately” in the same group as Malawi.
“Indeed, we could have loved to have an international friendly to see how our girls would cope with the pressure of playing on the international stage. However, we do not have ample time for that as the team is leaving for Zimbabwe this Saturday. The best option is to have a few local games against FMB Under-20 teams,” she said.
The team is expected to travel by road to Bulawayo.
Once they arrive the next day, they will have three days to recover from fatigue before the Cosafa contest starts on September 13.
Meanwhile, 29 of the 32 players in the squad have reported for training. Local-based midfielder Sungeni Msiska is unavailable as she is sitting for her examinations at Malawi Institute of Tourism while foreign-based players Tabitha Chawinga (Sweden) and Chisomo Kazisonga (Austria) are expected to arrive this weekend after being cleared by their clubs, according to Chalira. n