The National Youth Football Committee (NYFC) has accused junior national team coaches of ignoring talent in the regional FMB Under-20 leagues preferring to protect their jobs by going for overage Super League players.
NYFC vice-chairperson Mabvuto Missi said since the leagues were established in 2008, the junior national team coaches have not spared time to watch their games.
He said this affects development of talent as most of the players that are selected from Super League teams are overage.
John Kaputa, who doubles as coach for both the Under-17 and Under-20 national teams, could not be reached for his comment as he is said to be out of the country.
A delegation of representatives from Southern Region Youth League teams is reported to have taken FAM technical director (TD) Jack Chamangwana to task on the matter last week.
Director of Ntopwa Bullets Isaac Osman confirmed meeting Chamangwana on the issue.
“We were sent by the clubs to find out why players from the junior leagues are not selected for national youth teams [Under-17 and Under-20] when there is a lot of promising talent that deserves consideration. We even threatened to pull out of the league because we felt it is not fair for junior national team coaches to continue ignoring talent from the youth leagues when they were set up for that purpose by FAM.
“However, the TD assured us that the issue would be looked into and we are hoping that things will change for the better,” said Osman.
In an interview, Chamangwana admitted that up-and-coming players in the FMB leagues are, to a certain extent, indeed ignored. He was, however, quick to say that the issue was being seriously looked into.
“I would agree that the emphasis has been on players identified from Malawi Schools Sports Association (Massa) through the Copa Coca-Cola Tournament and Super League players.
“We have since agreed to change the approach and, for a start, we are conducting clinics in the locations in all the major cities as the first phase of identifying players for the Under-17 national team that will take part in the CAF Youth Championship,” said Chamangwana.
He said apart from that, they have also instructed the coaches to take a keen interest in the regional youth leagues so that they can identify promising talent.
However, Chamangwana added that a few good players that fall within the age brackets but play for Super League teams might still be considered for national duty for the sake of proper transition.
The FAM TD also said as one way of developing talent in the regional youth leagues, the bulk of the players that will be included in the Under-20 side for the Zone VI Games in Zambia later this year, will be from the regional youth leagues.
Missi claimed that since the regional leagues were established, only a few have made it into the junior national teams.
“Time and again, we have been pleading with the national team junior coaches as well as authorities at FAM to follow the regional youth leagues to select players and consider them for national duty. Unfortunately, our plea has fallen on deaf ears,” said Missi.
He claimed that in the past four years, only two players from the three regional leagues have been included in the Under-17 and Under-20 national teams.
“As far as our records are concerned, players from our youth leagues who have made it into the final squads of the national youth teams are Willy Saenda from Griffin Young Stars and Andrew Banda of Hard Knockers,” he said.
Saenda was included in the Under-17 national team that participated at the World Youth Championship in Algeria in 2009 whereas Banda was part of the team that travelled to Botswana last year for the Under-20 Cosafa Youth Tournament.
Missi said FAM needs to take a leaf from Zambia who are reaping the fruits for investing in youth football development.
During the sponsorship relaunching ceremony held in September last year, FMB marketing manager Sylvia Nankwenya said the financial institution felt honoured to be associated with football development in the country.
“We pledge our continued support and we hope more players will be identified from the league to play in the Super League and national teams,” Nankwenya said.
One of the players Elijah Kachikuwo Jnr who plays for Karibu Academy said there are a lot of good players in the regional leagues who can make the grade in the junior national teams.
“The authorities should develop interest in the regional youth leagues. There quite a number of good players in the youth leagues who have the potential to do well if given a chance, but they are discouraged because they are not considered,” Kachikuwo Jnr said.
Over the years, the regional youth leagues have developed talent in the likes of Victor Mpinganjira, Gerald Phiri Jnr and Tony Chitsulo.