An eventful 2015 for Flames
The year 2015 provided a series of dramatic and sometimes, almost tragic moments for the Malawi national football team, the Flames, in their quest to end a 27-year trophy drought.
Such a drought had consequently condemned the Flames to wear the tag of perennial under-achievers.
The last time the Flames won a trophy was in 1988 after winning the East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup at Kamuzu Stadium.
Other escapades since then have ended in utter disappointment albeit false hopes with some unexpected results sometimes.
The Flames began 2015 under the guidance of head coach Young Chimodzi and his deputy Jack Chamangwana, who had taken over from Tom Saintfiet in 2014.
The two Flames legends had the initial target of guiding the Flames to success in the Cosafa Championship which South Africa hosted in May.
Cosafa Cup disaster
The Flames went to the Cosafa Cup in South Africa as one of the favourites to, at least, reach the final.
The Malawi nation also put its trust in Chimodzi and his charges to pull a surprise at the tournament after blending experienced players with some exciting new talent such as Gerald Phiri Jnr, Micium Mhone, Muhammad Sulumba, Yamikani Fodya and John Banda.
The Flames were seeded for the tournament and their first assignment was a quarterfinal tie against Mozambique on May 25.
The Flames seemed to have staggered in the heat of the moment after the then captain Lucky Malata conceded an own goal earlier on, but Sulumba came to his rescue with a thumping header from a corner-kick.
The Flames took the lead late in the second half through
a Limbikani Mzava spot- kick. But hero turned villain as Mzava conceded an own goal in additional time for the sides to go into a penalty shoot-out to settle the tie.
Tizgobere Kumwenda, Yamikani Fodya and Sulumba missed their spot kicks as the Flames lost the shoot-out 5-4 to mark another end of a dream—a story which had almost become synonymous with the Flames.
The Flames thus went into the Plate Section where they defeated the hosts, South Africa, 5-4 on post-match penalties following a goalless draw.
Mozambique-based striker Zicco Mkanda then guided the Flames to a 1-0 victory over Zambia in the Plate final on 27 May, to give the Flames a consolation prize after failing to live up to expectations.
But, reports emerged that Chimodzi had resigned from his position after the quarterfinal loss to Mozambique, and was only persuaded to carry on by Football Association of Malawi (Fam) officials.
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