The Flames did it again the umpteenth time. They broke the heart of my eight-year old daughter, just as they did the entire nation. They did it with distinction in mediocrity and went into the Hall of Shame of losing a match in which they scored all the four goals. For us and the opposition.
Anyone who defends such lunacy needs their head examined. Fact is on the night of May 25 2015 the Flames brought agony, shame and humiliation on Malawi. The question is, do they deserve to wear the national colours and hoist the Malawi flag? Malawi must judge. Anyway they were mediocre and an utter disgrace.
Blossom, my daughter, was excessively ecstatic with Malawi when it equalised. She went and pulled out her cheerleader’s gear. At first, she never understood that Malawi was not winning when it conceded an own goal. It took some education from Uncle Kondwani that scoring in your own goal counts not for you but the opposition. Frustrated with such seeming carelessness she recessed into a dark place only to be retrieved when Malawi equalised.
Then she went ballistic the entire match screaming, cajoling, praying and fantasising until the final moments when she was once again schooled about the unpalatable possibility of a penalty shootout and its writhing agonies.
Therefore, such was her excessive joy, relief and happiness when Mzava converted a penalty at the very end of regulation time. She was convinced that the agony of penalties had been avoided. Being naive in soccer matters. She was so overjoyed with the scoring to the extent that her screaming startled and scared her 23 months old sister who started crying incessantly.
Within seconds, it was her turn to cry when the spineless Flames conceded yet another own goal with just 90 seconds shy of the last whistle. That resurrected her agonies of a penalty shootout, which the Flames predictably lost.
It was a reminder of how hopelessly without spine and character the Malawian footballer is when faced with the challenge of playing on the big stage. They have no answer to the need to manage nerves and take pressure. They crumble like the sand castles kids make when we go to the lake. That’s vintage Flames.
They were the better side as constantly stated by the commentary team on Super Sport. To underscore the irony of the night, they were the only ones that scored all the four goals into both nets during regulation time.
Not only did they play brilliantly, but they also were scoring, which in football, for any disciplined team, is enough to win games. But then the Flames neither have discipline nor tact, let alone a game plan. All they have had since 1994 is brilliance and wastefulness. Discipline and tact deserted them and we are fond of saying we played well but we were unlucky not to win. My foot that is daft.
The point to be made, obvious as it might sound, but not to the Flames technical panel and their handlers is that soccer has advanced to the highest levels of tactical sophistication. The teams that win matches, let alone tournaments, are not those that are most gifted and oozing with talent: then Brazil or Argentina and not Germany should have won the 2014 World Cup in Rio. The Germans won because of tactical supremacy.
Malawi soccer, just like many spheres of endeavor, is an immensely talented space both in its people and its natural endowment but its Achilles heels is the lack of tact, discipline and game plan.
The above characters are encompassed in a concept called leadership. The Flames lacked it against Mambas. The kind one gets from Morinho who defends a single goal the entire match through tactics and game plan. He parks the proverbial bus in front of his goal for 89 minutes if necessary. We failed to park even a Starlet against Mambas even for 90 seconds. We are mediocre.
At bigger picture level these mediocre performances are symptomatic of the shambolic fashion on how we approach these assignments. We rarely prepare, leave doing everything to the 11th hour, do things haphazardly and run around like headless chickens.
We are a makeshift of an ensemble and over and over again, we go down the same shambolic path but expecting a different outcome. That is insanity, doing the same lousy things but expecting positive outcomes.
It’s high time we took a recess from international competitions, do some serious introspection and a Swot analysis of our game, build a new strategy from the Swot, rebuild a winning team with the right psych/mentality and once we are ready, return to the international scene.
We will save money and preserve our dignity and pride.