This year’s Independence anniversary celebrations are passing yet again without the Flames playing a friendly match as has been the tradition since independence 53 years ago.
Malawians will mark the day with prayers at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe, with the climax set to be a match involving local football powerhouses, Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strikers at Bingu National Stadium (BNS).
Gone are the days when thousands would troop to one of our stadiums—either Kamuzu, Civo or Mzuzu—to watch the Flames lock horns with an international opponent.
Former national team defence stalwart, Gilbert Chirwa, has said it was sad that Independence Day celebrations are now just passing off without any match for the Flames.
He said such matches used to contribute to the exposure of many players.
“I particularly remember what happened in 1984 when we met Kenya in Independence Day Celebration matches. We played against them in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. This gave a chance for the coach to try all his players in different positions and combinations,” Chirwa said.
The former Big Bullets coach recalled that such games also used to motivate players as the government doubled game bonuses with flying and hotel accommodation being further sources of motivation.
“We had all the reasons to die fighting for our country. We were well motivated to ensure that we win on this great national day. We knew the whole country had a special interest in such games and we never felt like letting our fellow countrymen down,” he narrated.
Chirwa, therefore, called on the government to revive the tradition f such games.
Celebrated former national team striker, Kinnah Phiri, recalled that players used to go into camp a month before the big day.
“Playing an international match on this day was never in doubt. We knew that whatever the case, there will be a team coming from one of the countries on the continent to play us. So, we always prepared our minds and looked forward to the day,” Phiri said, adding that it was easier for the government to spend on the team because it used to win.
“Yes, we know that the issue of resources comes to the forefront each time we talk of organising matches for the Flames, but the team could be losing out on the matches because of performance. Are we sure that the government can commit to spend resources when we are not certain that the team will win?” Phiri quizzed.
But he said it was important that the Flames should be playing matches on the national day as players’ exposure comes through such games.
Chairperson of the celebrations, Joseph Mwanamvekha, said the national prayers will be held under the theme ‘Thanking God for a Season of Plenty’.
Mwanamvekha said entry at BNS for the football match will be free, with President Peter Mutharika presiding over all functions.
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