How not to select a Flames’ coach


When it comes to the selection of a coach for the Malawi National Football Team, it is a gamble trusting Football Association of Malawi’s (Fam) choice.

Fam can pick a very good man but a very bad coach or vice-versa. Sometimes, the association gets a very good coach who is way ahead of Malawi football. The right coach at the wrong time.

A proper analysis of current needs is never defined to inform the type of coach to hire.


Steve McRay was a good English man who unfortunately picked a wrong job as the Flames’ coach. Reports suggested that he was a women’s football coach.

In 2005, Burkhard Ziese (now deceased) got the Flames’ job on the premise of having players he was training at Kamuzu Stadium, as part of the interview, sing a national anthem.

“That is the man to restore the country’s football pride,” Fam officials chorused while observing the German.


That Ziese got the job was hardly surprising for, despite his suspect record in Ghana and Zambia, he was clever enough to bring some gifts for some members of the interviewing panel.

The poor officials were swept off their feet.

When the big German picked the job, it was clear that he was here to court controversy, set a trap for Fam to dismiss him and pay him for contract termination. Fam paid dearly.

A few years ago, yet another English coach came with an impeccable resume and nothing else. He was more about theory that was betrayed by his catastrophic practical application of the same on the pitch.

Of course, the Englishman also came earlier than the rest of the interviewees and got the job.

And three years ago, Belgian Tom Saintfiet, from the blues was parachuted into the Flames’ job as a freelancer. Shortcuts have never worked. It was never going to work with Saintfiet.

You would have expected the national team selectors to change their approach when it comes to the selection of a coach. Nothing suggests so.

However, other people can see something wrong.

Yasin Osman, by far the grandmaster of domestic football, rightly observed something that could compromise the selection process of the next coach—the composition of the selection panel itself.

The Be Forward Wanderers coach noted that while Fam and its Youth and Technical sub- Committee are competent, they may not have the competence to select the right coach.

The veteran trainer, boasting over 40 years of top level coaching experience, observed that the only one who has played football at very top level in the Fam Executive Committee is Walter Nyamilandu.

“Look at the Fam technical sub-committee. Most of them have no coaching experience and qualifications. That is why they need this group of former coaches,” Osman observed in Malawi News edition of February 11 2017.

The reaction from Fam was predictable. The association felt that Osman, having also angled for the Flames’ job, was an interested party.

Fam shot the message and the messenger.

Osman, having served Malawi football as a great player, coach, Fam General Secretary and coaches’ instructor, knows what he is talking about.

One can be a competent brick-layer but lack the competence in carpentry.

The technical sub-committee comprises qualified coaches such as Dave Saccur, James Mwenda and Benjamin Kumwenda and ex-player Phillip Madinga. But that is not enough.

You need someone who not only knows but also understands football at the very top level. Not only the Malawi level. The Flames will not be competing in Malawi only.

Closer to home, South Africa Football Association has picked Africa Cup of Nations-winning coach Clive Barker, Uefa Champions League players Benni McCarthy and Lucas Radebe in the selection panel for the next Bafana Bafana coach.

These men will not be awe-struck by Belgian Hugo Bross, Egyptian Hassan Shehata and Italian Roberto Mancini, who are among the applicants for the Bafana Bafana job.

In Malawi, the interviewing panel will always feel intimidated and small when confronted by any fast-talking witty European coach.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Agonisingly towards the 2018 African Nations Championship and 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in April and June, respectively.

It is not about where the coach will come from but how will they be selected and, more importantly, by who?

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