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‘Fam’s coach gamble’

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Despite debate on who Football Association of Malawi (Fam) should pick for Malawi National Football Team’s coaching job, it is now not about who but when the appointment will be made.

The proponents of the hiring of Nsanzurwimo Ramadhan as a replacement for his erstwhile boss, Ernest Mtawali, have been swift to peg their opinion on the Flames’ 1-0 win over Swaziland last Sunday in the former assistant coach’s first game in charge.

And Fam General Secretary, Suzgo Nyirenda, is reported to have told the press that the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Group L dead-rubber qualifier was to be the pendulum on which the decision of hiring the next coach would swing.

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And that means the playing field was not level as the other 60- plus applicants eyeing the same job did not have a similar chance to prove themselves by taking charge of the Flames.

But it appears that Fam does not have the money to get the best coach on the market. It is now a question of making do with what is readily available.

Talking about the win over Swaziland, let us look at first things first.

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The first thing people ask after a match is whether a team won, then the level of performance, outstanding players, tactics and fielding.

Tick a big yes on the first point of the result. Ramadhan masterminded the Flames’ first win in this group having gone five games winless. On performance, put a bold question mark in red ink for despite showing hunger for scoring, the good play was in patches.

There was no transitional play from the back to the front. Everything seemed to happen by chance. Malawi struggled to kill off the game. Even to defend the slender lead was not easy.

In fact, the complexion of the game could have easily changed had Swaziland made use of their seventh minute chance which Felix Badenhorst fluffed.

In a post-match interview at Kamuzu Stadium, Ramadhan sought to put context to the performance of his charges.

“We were under pressure as we had lost most games in the group. The confidence and self-belief were low. If it were not for the pressure, we could have scored five to six goals. But we were too desperate for a result. I am happy with what I saw. We have a good squad,” he told the media.

On fielding, there was a measure of merit evidenced by the dropping of Nyasa Big Bullets striker, Chiukepo Msowoya, for Moyale Barracks’ impressive Gastin Simkonda, who partnered Gabadinho Mhango in attack.

However, Ramadhan’s gamble in giving right-back, Steven Chagoma, the nod ahead of Stanley Sanudi did not pay off. The Be Forward Wanderers’ defender eventually reclaimed his position in the second half when the Blue Eagles’ man visibly struggled to defend and overlap as demanded in an initial 4-4-2 formation.

Chagoma’s back pass could have gifted Swaziland an early goal, thanks to Flames goalkeeper, Charles Swini, spread himself big to the ground to block Badenhorst’s attempt.

That proved to be the turning point as Simkonda won a free-kick which Gerald Phiri Jnr, sensibly maintained in the starting line-up as was the case under Mtawali, expertly sliced into the net.

Despite several scoring opportunities, Phiri’s goal provided the only solace and the first maximum points that saved the Flames from bowing out without a win. So, Ramadhan generally got the selection right.

But overall, the patchy performance of the team suggested that Ramadhan did not bring in his playing template but merely restored unity and harmony in what was previously a divided house.

Tactically, there was no change save for the high defensive line that thwarted Swaziland’s counter-attacking game. It appeared that the visitors expected Malawi to, as usual, play deep. Ramadhan could be seen urging Swini and the defence to push up.

Off the field of play, in the terraces the fans splashed banners reading Tasiya kunyoza team yathu, Ramadhan the master tactician.

Such was the seal of approval for the former Bullets coach but if he gets the job it would be because he is the correct choice politically and conveniently. However, basing his choice on one game is a gamble.

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