90 minutes from Entebbe

RARING TO GO—Flames train

By Isaac Salima:

Football unites but, this afternoon, Covid pandemic restrictions will separate fans from players, at least in a physical-setup sense.

Instead of invading Kamuzu Stadium to witness a mouth-watering fixture between Malawi and Uganda, the fans will be reduced to remote spectators, glued to their radio and television sets instead of cheering on the players a stone-throw away.


Straight from the famous Entebbe International jetted into the country yesterday to face an intense 90-minute fight for second spot in group B against the Flames in the 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifier. Airport, the Uganda’s Cranes

The Flames are in a special operation not to rescue hostages, like in the famous 1976’s 90 Minutes at Entebbe task in Uganda, but rather to snatch three points from the visitors and automatically book a place for a football fiesta in Cameroon.

A win is not an option for the Flames, who are third in the group with seven points and need to collect maximum points to displace the Cranes, who are second with eight points.


The Flames will, for the first time in history, be in such a daunting task while playing on home soil.

Forget about the ‘Machava disaster’ on July 19 1997 when, after being caught up in a similar situation, the Flames gave away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to Mozambique when all Malawi needed was a point to qualify for 1998 African Cup of Nations finals in Burkina Faso.

Malawians should indeed put aside the pain that the Flames inflicted on them that evening in Ndjamena after surrendering a 2-1 lead to draw 2-2 in the dying minutes with Chad to miss the 2014 Afcon showpiece but, rather, offer the players extraordinary morale for them to prove that home has always been best.

Expectations among soccer enthusiasts are high as the opportunity for the team to make a third appearance to the African Cup finals after doing it in 1984 and 2010, is for the players to lose.

“We will do it,” Meck Mwase, Flames mentor, said during the week.

Malawi revived their qualifying chances last Wednesday after defying all odds to claim an away 1-0 victory over South Sudan.

Mwase is expected to make one change to his first 11 that downed Sudan following the absence of suspended striker Gabadinho Mhango, who accumulated two yellow cards.

Mwase last week threw in an attacking team with Gerald Phiri Junior, Peter Banda, Richard Mbulu, Mhango and Khuda Muyaba all in the first eleven.

However, the former Flames defender has to devise his tactics well to avoid conceding.

“We will do everything to win this game. We do not have any pressure. We have played Uganda before and we know their style of play,” Mwase said.

Uganda go into the game needing only a draw to secure their place to Cameroon.

Speaking before training at Kamuzu Stadium Sunday, the Cranes’ Assistant Coach Abdallah Mubiru said they intend to capitalise on Malawi’s weaknesses, having started analysing Malawi’s 1-0 win over Uganda.

“We have already identified some of the weaknesses and we want to make sure we capitalise on that. There are three stages of the game when we attack, out of possession and transition whereby transition is two in attack and defence. We have to be spot on in all the three or four stages. We can’t think that we should just sit at the back to absorb all the pressure; we have to attack,” he said.

On paper, the odds are against the Flames, having previously lost all games in the Afcon qualifiers against Uganda in home and away assignments.

In 29 meetings in all competitions and friendlies with Uganda, Malawi won eight, drew six and lost 15.

In the first leg in Kampala, Malawi lost 2-0 to Uganda.

In all its assignments in the group, the Flames collected six points after beating South Sudan both home and away, drew with Burkina Faso at home before going down away. Burkina Faso lead the group with nine points. South Sudan anchor the group with three points.

Top two top teams from each group will get a ticket to Cameroon.

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