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20 years living next door to Cosafa

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In his popular hit titled Living next door to Alice, musician Smokie Robinson must have, unknowingly, offered lessons to Malawi’s Flames on why it is important to grab your chance when it presents itself.

The persona in this hit waited for 24 years but still could not make advances on Alice, who was living just next door. Only to regret when she left.

Part of the lyrics of the song read:

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Oh, I don’t know why she is leaving, or where she is gonna go/

I guess she has got her reasons but I just don’t want to know/

‘Cause for 24 years I have been living next door to Alice/

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Twenty four years, just waitin’ for a chance/

To tell her how I’m feeling, maybe get a second glance/

Now I have gotta get used to not living next door to Alice.

Like Alice, the Flames had the chance to win the beautiful Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Castle Cup for 20 years but somehow let it slip away.

Like Alice, the Flames allowed the Cosafa Cup to slip through their fingertips in 2002 and 2003. Since that time, all the team has had are regrets.

The Flames squads of 2002 and 2003 were the strongest in recent years but some poor tactics cost them as they lost 4-1 on aggregate to South Africa and Zimbabwe, respectively.

Since then, the Flames have struggled to even qualify for the quarter-final of the cup due to poor preparations, changing and chopping of players and coaches.

Since 2004, the Flames have hired and fired over seven coaches, dropped and recalled players with no success.

Coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) is the third coach in the last three years to take charge of the Flames after Ernest Mtawali and Young Chimodzi.

In the playing personnel, RVG will be without Ernest Kakhobwe, Chikoti Chirwa, Yamikani Chester, Denis Chembezi, Innocent Bokosi and Simeon Singa who featured in last year’s competition also held in South Africa.

In fact, from the squad that featured in the last warm up matches, Charles Swini and Captain Limbikani Mzava will not be available for the game.

In Cosafa’s history, the Flames have registered the most defeats, 19, from 43 matches, while winning 12 and drawing 12, representing a winning rate of 27.90 percent.

“Mozambique, Malawi and Lesotho have lost the most games (19), though the latter have the worst loss percentage as their defeats have come from just 39 games,” www. cosafa.com reads.

Overall, in terms of performance, Malawi is ranked eighth out of 14 countries in the region with Zimbabwe Warriors’ 33 wins, 11 draws and eight defeats in 53 games making them the most successful team in the region.

Like Alice, the cup has flirted with holders Zimbabwe for a record five times, South Africa and Zambia (four times each), Angola (thrice) and Namibia once.

Now, the Flames get their Cosafa Cup campaign underway on Monday against Mauritius while hoping for a second glance.

Malawi have this year been drawn in Group B of the preliminary round alongside Angola, Botswana and Mauritius.

Additionally, the statistics place Malawi’s players as among the lowest individual scorers with all-time top scorers being Jones Nkhwazi, Esau Kanyenda and Gabadinho Mhango with three goals each.

Kanyenda, the Flames’ most successful player in Cosafa’s history after winning 2002 Cosafa Player of the Series, said Malawi does not excel in the competition due to poor preparations.

“We may think it is an easy group but it is not. The so-called small teams have improved but we do not seem to have improved. The coach should take a very strong team to Cosafa Cup and ensure sound preparations,” the Be Forward Wanderers veteran striker told The Daily Times last month.

The reasons that have always connived to let down the Flames persist going into this year’s cup, which will run from tomorrow to June 9 in Mpumalanga Province.

Like the persona in Alice, the Flames may just have to “get used to not living next door to Alice.”

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