Malawi National Football Team faces the prospect of using an old kit at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals, which kicks off on Sunday.
With the Flames’ opening match against Guinea on Monday fast approaching, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) is panicking to fast-track the shipment of the new kit and replicas.
In a statement released Thursday, Fam stated that it experienced delays in the production of the new kits and replicas in China and Vietnam.
“Although we experienced production delays in both sites, shipment was embarked upon early December with the view of having the new kit by end of December.
“However, we are facing considerable delays with delivery of the consignments due to a backlog of shipments overseas arising from Covid complications. This is being experienced after special efforts were made to fast-track shipment of the consignments through courier services,” the statement reads.
Fam has since apologised to the football fraternity for failing to deliver the consignment in time despite the Flames qualifying for the continental finals in March last year.
President Lazarus Chakwera unveiled the kit during the Flames Kuipatsa Moto Fundraising Dinner at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on October 29 2021.
Then, Chakwera was only presented with a portrait of the replica kit as the association was hoping that the first consignment would be in the country by December end.
According to Fam, the sleek and modern Flames heritage jersey is inspired by Malawian traditional art.
The kit’s pattern is drawn from a traditional house painting as well as patterns found on fabrics, a true celebration of Malawi’s culture.
A beautifully-crafted piece of art adorning the traditional Flames colours of red, green and black, the jersey is called ‘I am a Flame’.
Sports analyst George Kaudza-Masina described the delay as unfortunate.
“For a long time, Fam has been failing to appreciate the significance of replica jerseys and each time it has always been business as usual. Unfortunately, this is Fam for us, always doing things differently from the norm. This is a lost opportunity to make money for the Flames.
“The silence from Chiwembe is not even helping matters as they were supposed to come out in the open and tell owners of the team, Malawians, about the status of the replica jerseys one week before the tournament.”
Football consultant Kelvin Moyo said sales of the jersey would depend on Flames’ results at the tournament.
“Fam has lost an opportunity to make money. With the team already in Cameroon, selling the replica jerseys will now be complex and tricky. It will mainly depend on the team’s results at the tournament.
“If the team loses its matches, no one will want to be associated with it. If it wins, the team will be an irresistible entity to be associated with,” Moyo said.
After playing Guinea on Monday, the Flames’ next assignment is against Zimbabwe some four days later.
Malawi’s last group match is against Senegal on January 18.
This will be Malawi’s third appearance at the continental showpiece after earlier qualifications in 1984 (Ivory Coast) and 2010 (Angola).
Interestingly, only local coaches have guided the team to the finals.
The late Henry Moyo was the first in 1984 before Kinnah Phiri and Meck Mwase achieved similar feats in 2010 and 2022, respectively.
The Flames will be hoping for a better campaign that should see them go beyond the group stages of the campaign for the first time.