Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, could qualify for the second round of the 2023 African Nations Champions (Chan) qualifiers without kicking a ball.
This follow’s Fifa’s tough stand on Zimbabwe as the world football governing body is yet to lift its ban on Zimbabwe, with less than two weeks before the start of the qualifiers.
In the first leg, matches are expected to be played between July 22, 23 and 24 with the second leg scheduled for July 29, 30 and 31.
This means the Warriors, who were also kicked out of the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers due to the same ban, risk being eliminated again from Chan, a competition for local players only.
With 10 days before the first leg matches, Caf is yet to provide updates on the suspension of Zimbabwe.
This has put Football Association of Malawi (Fam) in an awkward situation.
The association’s general secretary Alfred Gunda said they were waiting for feedback from Caf.
“We will be following up because we wrote them to seek situation status for planning,’’ Gunda said.
Should the Flames progress to the next round, they will face either Mozambique or Zambia.
Flames coach Marian Mario Marinica is likely to use the majority of the local players who featured at the 2022 Hollywoodbets Cosafa Cup in Durban, South Africa.
During the Cosafa Cup, Marinica had four foreign country-based players only.
Sports analyst Sherry Msuku said the Chan would be a good opportunity for local based players to showcase their skills.
“We should take the Chan qualifiers seriously and I am sure the coach will choose players on merit,’’ he said.
Malawi have never qualified for the Chan finals. They took part in the 2019 Chan qualifiers but were eliminated in the first round by eSwatini on away-goal rule following a 1-1 draw on aggregate.
Meanwhile, Marinica and a member of his backroom staff have remained in South Africa on a purportedly spying mission.
Despite Malawi’s early exit from the 2022 Cosafa Cup in Durban, Marinica and assistant coach, sports psychologist and data analyst Clwyd Jones are monitoring Flames’ possible opponents in Africa Nations Championship (Chan)— Zambia and Mozambique.
Football Association of Malawi (Fam) Communications and Competitions Director Gomezgani Zakazaka and Flames Team Manager Steven Madeira could not be drawn to explain the reason behind the duo’s continued stay in South Africa.
“The coach has other engagements; he will return later,” Zakazaka said.
However, sources said Marinica and Jones wanted to watch both Zambia and Mozambique during the Cosafa Cup.
Flames, who were due to face suspended Zimbabwe in Chan’s preliminary round, will face either Zambia or Mozambique, who clash in another preliminary round.
Both Marinica and Jones were expected to watch Zambia taking on Botswana yesterday before watching Mozambique.
Football analyst George Kaudza Masina said Marinica’s staying behind in Durban was twofold.
“Modern football requires that you understand your opponents better, in terms of their style of play and technical know-how. This helps people plan properly against opponent. But at the same time, these matches are being beamed live on television of which he could have followed the Mozambique and Zambia matches right here in Malawi,” Masina said.
Flames were eliminated in the group stages, having won against Mauritius 2-0, drawing 1-1 with eSwatini and losing 2-1 to Lesotho.