Coach Ronny van Geneugden’s (RVG) bending to pressure to include old-guards in his team has raised fears of another failed attempt at the Flames rebuilding exercise.
RVG has succumbed to pressure from stakeholders, including his own captain Limbikani Mzava, to include old-guards in the national team.
He recalled veteran Chiukepo Msowoya, Atusaye Nyondo and Robin Ngalande for an international friendly against Lesotho which ended one-all.
There is still pressure for the coach to recall Esau Kanyenda, Fischer Kondowe and Joseph Kamwendo who are in top form as the Flames prepare for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
But analysts have warned that the coach risks going through the same path that his predecessor Ernest Mtawali went when he was forced to abandon his team rebuilding exercise and included veterans in his squad, only to be fired by Football Association of Malawi (FAM).
Football analyst Charles Nyirenda said RVG is at risk of achieving nothing in his first year due to indecisiveness.
He said: “The pressure is mounting for RVG. He had plans of building a team for the future. But the pressure for results is taking a toll on him. That is why he is succumbing and including players that have been there at the national team but failed to impress—some of them in the twilight of their careers. He needs to be very careful because he risks finishing his first year without pointing at anything tangible that he has achieved.”
Nyirenda urged RVG to continue rebuilding his team from what Mtawali left off rather than going back to old-guards.
Mtawali is credited for having given a chance to up-and-coming players such as Stanley Sanudi, Brighton Munthali, Levison Maganizo, Chawanangwa Kawonga, Schumacher Kuwali, Gerald Phiri Jnr, Dalitso Sailesi, Miracle Gabeya and Isaac Kaliati, who now form the backbone of the national team.
These have gelled with RVG’s own pick such as Chikoti Chirwa, Dennis Chembezi, Gomezgani Chirwa, Jabulani Linje, Peter Cholopi, Ian Chinyama, Righteous Banda and Fletcher Bandawe.
Another analyst, George Chiusiwa felt RVG’s Flames rebuilding was in a shambles.
He said: “It’s very strange that we are talking of a Flames rebuilding exercise which is somehow wanting in terms of strategic technical approach. Today the nation is told the Belgian tactician will bank on the junior national teams to build the senior team and that he doesn’t have much to do with the old-guards in the rebuilding process.
“The next day, you hear he is calling up players who have never been anywhere near the Under-20 or Under-23 teams. The recent recalling of players who were discarded or ignored by this coach and his backroom staff for the Lesotho friendly maybe seen as a sign of desperation on the part of the Flames coach. One may ask: When did the coach realise that players like Robin Ngalande, Atusaye Nyondo and Chiukepo Msowoya are playing well to deserve a national team call-up?”
“Players like Ngalande and Nyondo have been in good form in South Africa even before the Flames left for the Morocco friendlies. In fact, Ngalande was playing well for Masters Security FC back home before he left for the PSL in South Africa and he deserved a place in the team that was undergoing a rebuilding considering his relative young age. This is why one also wonders why the coach claims he is rebuilding [with young blood] while using players like Chiukepo Msowoya.”
However, RVG backed his decision to recall the old-guards, saying it is a short-term solution.
“The emphasis is on building a strong squad for the future, but as I said the door is still open and in the short-term, I will continue to assess the performance of other experienced players. But we are taking one step at a time,” he said.
He added: “I have still maintained 80-90 percent of the team that faced Comoros in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations [Afcon] opening qualifier, so I believe my mission is on track.”
FAM technical and youth subcommittee chairperson James Mwenda also threw his weight behind RVG, saying ‘so far so good’.
RVG has presided over 11 Flames matches, winning two against Comoros in Afcon and a friendly against Togo.
He has lost to Madagascar twice in Championship of African Nations (Chan) and to Tanzania at 2017 Cosafa Cup.
The other matches against Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco Under-23, Tanzania, Angola and Lesotho ended in draws. n