The silence that has characterised the January players’ transfer window is a loud vote of no confidence for Malawi football. Foreign clubs’ disinterest in Malawian players is plain for all to see.
From crossing Beit Bridge in South Africa, now Malawi football exports are climbing Mulanje Mountain heading to Mozambique, the former Portuguese colony that has emerged from the ashes of civil war to overtake Malawi in most sectors, football inclusive.
Going to Mozambique is no longer a matter of taste for Malawian footballers. Their door to Mzansi has closed. The South African pay masters are no longer convinced that Malawi has football diamonds.
In the recent past, there has been no consistent Malawian performer in South Africa Premier Soccer League (PSL). John Maduka and Patrick Mabedi were big PSL hits, but that is history.
The best modern Malawi footballers have managed is man-of-the-match PSL displays. And this can be deceiving since in football, form is temporary, but class is permanent.
Result? Only four Malawians are still in PSL, down from 12 since 2011. First Division (previously Mvela League) is home to just three Malawians, down from eight. This is cause for Flames’ concern as strong national teams draw players from strong leagues.
England’s Three Lions struggle partly because while the English Premier League attracts best foreigners, English footballers do not have the guts to play in foreign leagues.
For Malawi, the only way out is to make the TNM Super League an appealing football brand. How to do it is obviously a million dollar football marketing question.
Our league must be decent enough to attract foreign players and coaches. Due to their work ethics, foreigners inject professionalism in leagues. And this professionalism rubs off on to the locals.
Ghanaian Thom Aido’s acrobatic spell with Telecom Wanderers inspired a generation of goalkeepers.
Burundian Nsanzwirimo Ramadhan offered tactical lessons at Bullets. In one of the games, fans were astounded when Ramadhan substituted a striker for defender Meke Mwase to play upfront. Bullets soon got a winning goal.
Second, if Malawi clubs cannot afford African Confederations Cup and the Champions League participation, then inviting foreign teams or travelling for strength-building matches could be the alternative.
Domestic football standards need a sound yardstick against the best in the region. There is no much difference between travelling to Mzuzu or Harare for friendly matches.
Third, making the league appealling is tough. But sometimes, it is just good to do your part. Opportunities find those who are at the right place and ready. Supersport television broadcasting deals could soon knock on the door of the Super League.
Sulom and FAM must do their part in harmonising the chaotic football calendar that could breed match-fixing.
There is need to bring sanity to players’ transfers, end indifferent officiation and improve infrastructure.
The Lilongwe Declaration is a blueprint for Malawi football. Some of the recommendations in that document do not require money. Just the will.