Flames target 2 friendlies in Saudi Arabia
By Mabvuto Kambuwe
Football Association of Malawi (Fam) has said it is optimistic of securing two friendlies during the team’s camping in Saudi Arabia as part of preparations for Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals next month.
The Flames are expected to leave for Saudi Arabia on December 23 before travelling to Yaoundé, Cameroon, for Afcon finals slated for January 9 to February 6.
Fam General Secretary Alfred Gunda refused to disclose identities of the teams they intend to play against.
“We are aware that there are few other teams which are planning to camp there as well. We will take advantage of that to have one or two friendlies during the camping period. We should be making available more solid details once the ongoing preparations and discussions are concluded in a few days to come,” Gunda said.
Details indicate that several African teams, including Gabon, are also planning to camp in Saudi Arabia and Qatar ahead of the Afcon finals.
Fam got clearance to travel to the oil-rich nation despite travel bans due to the Covid pandemic.
According to Fam, the Saudi Arabia Football Federation offered to pay expenses for a delegation of 35, estimated at $100,000 (about K82 million).
Meanwhile, Fam Technical Director Marian Mario Marinica has included three players in the Flames squad.
The three are versatile attacker Robin Ngalande and Silver Strikers duo Zebron Kalima and Blessings Tembo.
Both Tembo and Kalima have been in form for the club as Silver clinched the FDH Bank Cup.
The pair also helped the team to reach the Airtel Top 8 Cup final, in which they will face Nyasa Big Bullets on Saturday.
Ngalande has been recalled after eight months absence due to an injury he sustained when the Flames defeated Uganda 1-0 courtesy of Richard Mbulu goal to qualify for Afcon finals.
Fam Competitions and Communications Director Gomezgani Zakazaka said Ngalande underwent medical assessment yesterday.
“We expect Tembo and Kalima to join the squad after the Airtel Top 8 Cup final,” Zakazaka said.
Civil Service United defender Lawrence Chaziya joined camp on Monday after his side exited the Airtel Top 8 Cup following the 2-0 loss to Silver.
Bullets and Silver players will join camp after the Airtel Top 8 Cup final on Saturday. Marinica called 34 players into camp last week in preparation for the Afcon finals.
However, some players have been included as part of preparations for African Nations Championship (Chan) qualifiers slated for March next year.
The Flames, having been drawn in Group B alongside Senegal, Zimbabwe and Guinea, will be making a third Afcon finals appearance.
Malawi made their Afcon debut in Ivory Coast in 1984 before making their second appearance in Angola in 2010.
Malawi will start the Afcon finals campaign against Guniea on January 10 at Kouekeng Stadium in Bafoussam, before meeting fellow Cosafa side Zimbabwe on January 14.
The team will finish the Group campaign against last edition’s runner-up Senegal on January 18.