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Afcon finals expanded

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Malawi national football team, the Flames, stand a chance of qualifying regularly for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals following the Confederation of African Football’s (Caf) proposal to expand the continental premier competition from 16 to 24 teams.

A Caf symposium, which Football Association of Malawi President, Walter Nyamilandu, General Secretary, Alfred Gunda, and the Flames Coach, Ronny van Geneugden, are attending in Morocco, arrived at the proposal yesterday. The proposal also includes shifting the Afcon schedule from January to June.

“We fully support the proposal to increase the teams to 24 because it gives participating teams a realistic chance of qualifying and giving back value for the investment made. This value proportion will also appeal to sponsors because of the likely return on the investment made,” Nyamilandu said in an interview from Rabat Wednesday.

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“We have marginally missed out qualification] in the past when we could have qualified for being number two or three in the group.”

The Flames qualified for the Afcon finals in 1984 and 2010 under the stewardship of local coaches, Henry Moyo (deceased) and Kinnah Phiri, respectively. Malawi were 45 minutes away from qualifying for the 1996 Afcon finals, but lost 2-1 in Mozambique when a draw was enough.

However, the meeting which Caf President, Ahmad is presiding, maintained that Afcon finals should take place every two years. The drastic changes are subject to Caf Executive Committee’s approval when it meets today. Caf is also yet to decide as to when the expansion will come into effect.

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The timing of the Nations Cup finals has been contentious as it has been played in January, in the middle of the league season in Europe, resulting in most Europe-based players shunning the competition.

“From a sporting perspective, it will allow more opportunity for footballers across the continent. It will increase revenue for Caf and we can triple our income. It will also force more infrastructure development,” Nigerian Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnock, who is also a Caf Executive Committee member, told Reuters Wednesday.

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