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Flames’ players shunned

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South African Premier Soccer League (PLS) clubs are, with the international football window open, racing to sign foreign players they spotted at the 2017 Cosafa Castle Cup in South Africa, with none yet being from Malawi.

And South Africa football experts have attributed the lack of interest in the Malawian players to their substandard quality, small stature and the Flames’ overall abject display that saw them going three games without a win and a goal at the regional competition.

South African football agent, Martin Sekati, who has facilitated trials for Malawian players such as Chiukepo Msowoya at Bloemfontein Celtic, did not mince words, saying Football Association of Malawi (Fam) leadership was dragging the game backwards.

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“The leadership of Fam is very poor and if this continues, football won’t develop. Instead of developing the game by putting structures all over the country in places such as Mzuzu where players can train, they only think of themselves.

“There is no equipment for the training of our players. It is not about having that equipment in the national team. It must start from the grassroots,” said Sekati in a telephone interview from Johannesburg yesterday.

The agent said he had recommended Nyasa Big Bullets’ centre-back John Lanjesi to Celtic, Yamikani Chester and Stanley Sanudi to SuperSport United.

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“But they are all saying ‘we will come back to you.’ This is July 21 and very soon the transfer window will close [August 31]. When you bring to South Africa a right-back from Malawi and Zimbabwe, PSL clubs would go for the Zimbabwean because they say their football is well structured. From the age of nine to 24, players are well developed,” Sekati said.

South Africa-based Malawian sports journalist, Benjamin Nyirenda, yesterday faulted dysfunctional football development structures, the stature of Malawian players and the poor showing of the Flames as compromising players’ chances of signing for PSL teams.

“Our players are too small compared to those of most countries. Here the demand is for strikers and defenders, and if you have a player like Dalitso Sailesi, Stanley Sanudi, Jafali Chande and Yamikani Chester competing during trials against Willard Katsande [Zimbabwean], obviously the clubs cannot consider the Malawians.

“If you are small, you need to be extremely good, like Gabadinho Mhango, and score whenever you play for your national team. Look at Sailesi, during the Cosafa Cup, he was good but he was falling down with the slightest of challenges. Additionally, Malawi was the worst team at the Cosafa Cup. If you go to a tournament and you don’t score in three games, it shows you are poor,” Nyirenda said.

Decades ago, PSL clubs were able to sign Malawian players such as Peter Mponda, John Maduka, Esau Kanyenda, Russel Mwafulirwa and Robert Ng’ambi because they were well-built, Nyirenda added.

“Joseph Kamwendo is small but he was able to sign for Orlando Pirates because he came with good credentials from Zimbabwe (Caps United) and Denmark (Nordsjaelland),” said the Soccer Laduma correspondent.

“It is about development. Look at Gaba. He is small but he is now well built-up because he goes to the gym. I don’t know if our teams have gyms in Malawi. It is not just about individual players going to the gym. It is about the whole team going to the gym. Here every team has their own gym. Khama Billiat and Teko Modise are small but you cannot dispossess them of the ball because they are very strong.”

The BidVest Wits player Mhango yesterday admitted that the training routine in the PSL is very different from that of Malawi, saying he goes to the gym four times a week.

“Competition here is very stiff you need to be fit all the time, be quick on the ball, otherwise they dispossess you. I do leg muscle strength and upper body exercises in the gym,” the former Nyasa Big Bullets forward said yesterday.

Be Forward Wanderers Technical Director, Jack Chamangwana, yesterday admitted that, in his generation, players were well-built compared to the current crop.

“In Malawi, we do more gym work during pre-season and during the season once a week. However, it is not just about going to the gym. It is also about good diet and, in the case of Malawi, the players cannot afford that due to their meagre perks,” said the former Kaizer Chiefs captain and caretaker coach.

Fam Technical Director, John Kaputa, admitted that most players of the current generation are small in stature.

“Naturally, most of the players who are good are short and small and there is nothing we can do about it. Normally, we try to discover taller players but their level of performance is not good enough,” Kaputa said.

“Yes, our players need strength training. It is an issue that we are looking at. That is why we are training physical fitness coaches to be part of coaching panels.”

A research recently discovered that 50 percent of Malawian children suffer from stunted growth due to poor nutrition, forcing the Department of Nutrition and HIV/Aids to launch a K6 billion project to reduce stunted growth in Salima and Dedza districts.

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