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Fam fires, hires most

12 Flames coaches in a decade, nothing to show

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Kinnah Phiri

Desperation for success and lack of proper planning has seen Football Association of Malawi (Fam) employing over 12 coaches for the Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, in the last decade.

Malawi News investigations revealed that from 2010 to date, no coach has lasted more than three years in charge of the Flames.

This is in sharp contrast to countries like Senegal and Gambia that have exercised patience with their coaches for more than five years.

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For instance, Senegal coach Aliou Cisse, who won the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) early this year, has been at the helm of the Teranga Lions for seven years.

During the period under review, legend Kinnah Phiri is the only coach to have led the Flames for more than three years from 2009 to 2013.

Kinnah guided the team to the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations( Afcon) finals in Angola.

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After the Kinnah-led technical panel, which included Young Chimodzi Senior and late Jack Chamangwana, the association hired Eddington Ng’onamo with Patrick Mabedi and Ernest Mtawali as his assistants in February 2013.

But in July, Fam hired Belgian Thom Santifiet on a short-term contract specifically for the match against Nigeria in which the Flames lost 2- 0 in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

Then, Chimodzi Senior was named caretaker coach from 2014 to 2015 and won the Cosafa Plate after beating Zambia 1-0 in South Africa.

Thereafter, Fam engaged Mtawali on a one-year contract in August 2015 with Burundian Nswazurimo Ramadan as his assistant.

But Mtawali was replaced by Ramadan on temporary basis. Then, Gerald Phiri Senior took over in 2017 before Belgian coach Ronny Van Geneudgen was handpicked by Fam on a two-year deal.

After two disastrous years in charge of the Flames, the Belgian was shown the exit door as Meck Mwase took over on an interim basis before he was named permanent coach after impressive performance during the Cosafa Cup in which he guided the team to the quarterfinals.

Mwase will always have space in archive of Malawi football having guided the Flames to the 2021 Afcon finals in Cameroon-becoming the third local coach to achieve that feat after late Henry Moyo in 1984 and Kinnah in 2010.

However, Mwase was fired during the Fam Executive committee quarterly meeting held in Mangochi and replaced him with Romanian Marian Mario Marinica, who signed a one year contract.

From a far, Marinica’s time is fast approaching an end after Flames comical display during the 2022 Hollywoodbets Cosafa Cup in Durban, South Africa in which Malawi won one, drawn and lost similar number of games.

Fam sub-technical committee chairperson Tiya Somba Banda admitted that the association had fired more coaches due to lack of patience.

“We need to learn to trust the process. National team results cannot be achieved overnight. It is proper to monitor and have progressive performance indicators against a national team coach and not just results.

“For instance, developing a consistent style play, identifying a wide pool of players of international stage calibre and having continuity of talent in the National team,” Somba Banda said.

Despite changing coaches almost every two years, the Flames have never won a trophy since 1988 when they won the East and Central Africa Challenge Cup.

The only achievement is qualifying for Afcon finals in 1984, 2010 and 2021.

Sports analyst George Kaudza Masina said Fam is always desperate for results.

“The biggest problem with Chiwembe [Fam] is that they have always been looking at quick wins unlike development of the game. By engaging and firing more than 10 coaches in the past decade, this demonstrates that something is wrong with our association.

“All these coaches failing to make the grade simply tells you that our agenda is upside down. More so, those recruiting these coaches are challenged too and we are failing to learn. In other words, the problem is Fam itself. Over trusting foreign coaches is another challenge where we have ended up recruiting a netball coach, a horse riding coach, a physical education coach and recently, a mere scout and football analyst for a coach,” he said.

Some soccer analysts believe that success comes with a cost.

National Football Coaches Association (NFCA) chairperson Aubrey Nankhuni said there is a need to exercise patience with coaches, who have proved to have a vision to develop the game.

“You cannot build a team in one or two years. There is need to give coaches ample time to implement their plans,” Nankhuni said.

Other coaches, who have managed the Flames include Steven Constantine, Allan Gillet and Danny Mac Lennan and Kim Splidsboel.

Other countries such Zimbabwe and Zambia have also been impatient with their coaches. For example Zimbabwe employed six coaches in 10 years including Kalisto Pasuwa, Ian Gorowa, Rahman Gumbo and Norman Mapeza.

Neighbours Zambia have since 2011 employed 10 coaches but have won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012 under Herve Renard.

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