Malawi national under-17 football team Coach, De Klerk Msakakuona, has apologised after his charges bowed out of the Cosafa Youth Championship following their 3-2 loss to Zambia on Wednesday.
The junior Flames raised the country’s hopes after starting the regional competition with a 3-0 win over South Africa at Mpira Stadium in Blantyre on Saturday.
This was followed by a 2-1 loss to eSwatini before a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Zambia.
The result saw Malawi finishing third behind eSwatini with three points in as many games.
Msakakuona described the poor performance as a betrayal to supporters that patronised the team’s matches.
“We have betrayed fans who supported us. They were still there despite our loss to eSwatini on Monday. They came in large numbers to give us the push but we just could not get things right,” he said.
Msakakuona said the junior Flames blew their chances of reaching the semifinals after losing to eSwatini 1-2 on Tuesday.
“Football is a game of results. You may be playing well but what matters most is the final result. We lost track after losing the eSwatini match. This gave us pressure to get a good result against Zambia which nearly came until we conceded the third goal. We have seen where things went wrong and lessons have been learnt the hard way,” he said.
Msakakuona, who inspired the team to bronze medal finishes in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the championship in Mauritius, refused to blame the junior Flames’ downfall on the dropping of 12 players who failed an MRI scan.
The scanning revealed that the players were overaged and Msakakuona had to bring in replacements just days before the tournament kicked off.
“I cannot say much because those players were not here. We registered 20 players for this tournament. Out of the 12 who failed the test, seven were our regular players but this should not be an excuse,” he said.
Going forward, the Blue Eagles mentor asked Football Association of Malawi to maintain the team.
“The boys played well but we are out. It has happened and we accept our fate. We do not need to be discouraged but look forward to next year’s contest. We just need to start preparations early in readiness for the tournament,” he said.
Former Flames Coach Kinnah Phiri, who is now Director of Football in the Ministry of Sports, said Zambia’s form was not surprising.
“Zambia have a pool of academies from where they identify talent. This helped them to have a big catchment area,” Phiri said.