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Are Malawian players that bad?

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Football is one of the most profitable careers in the world with players making headlines for the astronomical salaries that they earn.

The amount of money that goes into football is the envy of most career professionals such as lawyers, doctors, accountants and engineers who can only dream about earning what the footballers pocket.

It is such earnings that attract many young people around the world to join the game and get a share of the millions that go into players’ pockets.

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Over the years, Europe has proved to be the best place for footballers, most of whom get six-digit weekly salaries in US dollars, Euros or Pounds.

Earnings are one of the major factors that attract players to a particular club. For this reason, any club that wishes to secure the services of the best players in the world must be ready to spend.

Any player who is good enough to make the grade at any club in the world does not struggle to get offers.

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In fact, it is the clubs that keep knocking on his door to secure his signature and a deal is reached based on his demands.

But there are cases where players find themselves hoping from one club to another with the hope of being signed.

These are players who do not have names and depend on agents or intermediaries to convince clubs that they would reap great rewards if they signed a particular player.

The agents go about with video clips of their players in a bid to convince the clubs to give their players a chance to prove themselves.

Malawian players find themselves in such situations. Not many would get outright contracts with clubs in countries of their choice.

The vast majority of our players would go to foreign clubs on trial before either being given contracts or coming back home.

On their return, they would say the club officials have asked them to return home and wait for the next transfer window.

Others would also say that they were almost signed but things did not work out because of other complications surrounding work permits or foreign players’ quotas at the prospective clubs.

Players such as Miracle Gabeya and Emmanuel Zoya have found themselves in such situations as they left the country at different times to try their luck in South Africa and Zambia, respectively.

Gabeya almost signed for South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Highlands Park but the deal flopped because of disagreements on the transfer fee between his club Nyasa Big Bullets and other parties involved in the transaction.

At the peak of his career with the Malawi national football team and Wanderers, Football Association of Malawi president Walter Nyamilandu, an imposing defender of the mid-1990s, also attended trials in England where he did not make it.

Former Flames captain and utility midfielder John Maduka also travelled the long journey to Europe where he attended trials in Norway and England but nothing materialised until he found himself a home in South Africa’s PSL.

And in a recent development, Portuguese side Vitoria Setubal are understood to have sent an agent to monitor striker Gabadinho Mhango’s performance in Tuesday’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations return leg qualifier against Cameroon at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.

Setubal have since asked Gaba, who is on the books of Bidvest Wits in South Africa, to attend three-week trials in the European country.

But this does not happen to top players from some of our neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia who are signed outright and enjoy game time at their foreign clubs, unlike Malawian players.

Soccer analyst Madalitso Phiri said the Flames’ poor standing on the Fifa rankings is a big disadvantage to local players as no big club would be interested in signing a player coming from a country that is outside the top 100.

Phiri said the clubs conduct the trials to ascertain the quality of the players, otherwise they would find it easy to go for players from countries that are in the top 100 on the rankings.

“It is about getting the best on the market. Players whose national teams are not in the top 100 are not as marketable. They are difficult items to sell on the market. Clubs will first check the ranking of the player’s national team before deciding to give out a contract,” he said.

Phiri advised local players to work hard during national team games to help the Flames win matches and rise on the Fifa rankings where Malawi are currently on position 126.

A local player intermediary, Kondi Msungama, said marketing local players is difficult because local league matches are not televised.

Msungama said broadcasting matches on television helps in exposing players to foreign clubs and widens their options on the market.

“Most clubs find it easy to follow a player’s performance on television unlike relying on players’ agents or intermediaries. They want to see the player for themselves first before hearing from someone who is trying to find a market for them. So our league should find ways of televising its matches,” he said.

Msungama also pointed at Malawi’s position on the Fifa rankings as another disadvantage. He said in countries such as Britain, no club would be interested in a player coming from a country that is not in the top 70 of the rankings.

Local players should indeed work hard to help the Flames win matches and gain points which are a catalyst for any team’s rise on the rankings.

Otherwise Malawi’s continued decline on the rankings will not benefit their careers as the world’s best clubs will not be interested in acquiring their services.

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