A promise is a credit, so they say. And the Malawi under-20 national football team must have been well aware of the adage, as they fought like wounded buffaloes to hold hosts Swaziland to a 1-1 stalemate in Lobamba to progress to the next round of the African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Malawi had promised to put up a gallant fight in the match to honour the spirit of their departed teammate, Abel Mwakilama, who succumbed to celebral malaria on Friday in Portugal.
Mwakilama was part of the squad that drew 0-0 with the Swazis in the first leg at Bingu National Stadium but was not released by his club, Esmoriz, for yesterday’s encounter.
The junior Flames have proceeded to the next round, courtesy of the away goals rule, where they will face Angola.
Chinsinsi Maonga scored the priceless goal at Somhololo Stadium before the hosts replied.
Flames under-20 Coach, Meke Mwase, said it was a difficult match and praised his troops for adhering to the game plan.
“It was indeed a difficult game but the players followed instructions. We planned to get an early goal and things worked for us. I salute the boys for the outstanding performance.
“As you know, we were all shocked with news of Abel’s death and it was just right and proper for us to win for him. He was one of our key players and we just wanted to fight for him. Now we must focus on the Angola match,” he said.
Local seasoned sports journalist, Madalitso Phiri, commended the junior Flames for getting the result despite the death of Abel.
“We must appreciate that they are junior players and losing a teammate can be disturbing and shocking. So, somehow, their morale must have gone down.
“But they gathered the courage to score away when they failed to do it at home. This could mean that the team always plays under pressure when at home unlike in away matches,” he said.
Phiri also called for friendly matches to enable the junior Flames prepare thoroughly for Angola.
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