Flames coach scrutinised
After a disastrous campaign in the Cosafa Castle Cup and African Nations Championship (Chan), questions have emerged on whether Malawi national football team, the Flames’ Coach, Ronny van Geneugden (RVG), is the right man for the tough job.
In April, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) handpicked the Belgian despite that he did not have national team coaching experience, hoping the former Genk FC mentor could turn around the Flames’ fortunes after comical displays in recent years.
But if the performances of the team in Chan and Cosafa Castle Cup are anything to go by, the Belgian has a mammoth task to bring joy to Malawians.
Van Geneugden has been in charge of seven games, claiming a single victory (1-0 over Comoros), three losses (twice by 1-0 margins to Madagascar and 2-0 to Tanzania) and three goalless draws against Mauritius, Angola and Kenya in all competitions.
The statics are far much below those of former Flames coach, Ernest Mtawali, who registered four wins, lost thrice and drew once in eight games.
Ironically, Mtawali was shown the exit door after the expiry of his one-year tenure on July 1, 2016.
Since April, the Flames have only found the back of the net once in a victory over Comoros at Bingu National Stadium, courtesy of Gerald Phiri Junior’s free-kick.
Van Geneugden told journalists in South Africa after exiting the Cosafa Cup that his charges have a bright future.
“I thought we deserved to have a penalty [for a first half foul on Sailesi]. We had the game in our hands against a very powerful Angola team. I think it was a good result. We have a very good young squad with a bright future,” van Geneugden told SuperSport Television in a post-match interview.
Some local football analysts have since given mixed reactions to the Belgian’s performance with the Flames.
In an interview on Thursday, sports analyst Peterkins Kayira said it was difficult to judge the coach based on seven games only.
“He is the coach who wants results just like any other coach in the world. He needs time to prove himself and a coach cannot show his worth in five [seven] games. Despite his bad record, if you check where he started coaching to date, we should remember that successful people are those tired of failing,” said the former Malawi international Kayira.
“His record is far from impressive but we should not condemn him. Let us support him.”
The Flames legend said he was not surprised with the poor showing at the Cosafa Cup in South Africa.
“The team has no problem. What they are showing us now is what we planted in the players years back so we are just seeing the fruits. What does one expect from the boys? To me they are doing their best I cannot expect anything more than what I see,” he added.
Former Nyasa Big Bullets general secretary, Higger Mkandawire, said the performance of the team under van Geneugden was unconvincing.
“He does not fully understand African football and Malawi, in particular. In all the games he has been changing the first XI, mainly in games involving local players. He needs to understand the attitude or behaviour of his troops.”
Lilongwe-based fan Ezaius Mkandawire said the Belgian inherited problems.
“The current squad lacks experience, which means that the Flames’ project lacks continuity. Most people agree that Fam hierarchy has been there for too long. This is the only structure that has not changed for a very long time. That means we are recycling ideas,” Mkandawire said.
However, Fam President, Walter Nyamilandu, insisted that the issue of the Flames’ underperformance was a shared responsibility, saying the association has not been receiving enough funding to keep junior national teams active in international competitions, hence the association prioritises the senior side.
Nyamilandu backed van Geneugden, saying he had done his best, selecting players on merit and instilling in them a new playing philosophy.
“It is worth noting that the coach is not playing names but he is picking players based on merit and not which clubs they play for. He has been very bold in his selection and style of play. His ability to spot talent is exceptional. I think he has tried to make the best out of nothing considering that most of the players are debutants and young,” he said on Wednesday.
Some analysts suggest that van Geneugden should have met with regional coaches to appreciate the challenges of Malawi football.
Since its inception 20 years ago, Malawi has never won the Cosafa Cup but only reached the final in 2002 and 2003.
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