By Alick Maere and Benjamin Maona
THE Malawi National Hockey team says despite failing to win the Africa Hockey Union President’s Cup in Tanzania last weekend, there are indications that the standards of the game in the country are better compared to neighbouring countries.
The country’s national team returned to the international stage after a 20-year absence. The team had mixed fortunes in the East African country, with a second-place finish behind Zambia in a tournament that was also used to qualify one team for the Hockey Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
Speaking upon arrival Team Manager Kundai Mbawala said his players were much better in the two games unlike their Zambian and Tanzanian counterparts who were technically unconvincing.
“The Zambians and Tanzanians were also not as organised as we were. There were also lacking in current laws and certain aspects of the game, such that they relied on us to provide guidance,” Mbawala said.
Asked to explain how his team failed to lift the cup if it was better organised, Mbawala blamed officiation which he said applied rules of the game wrongly.
He cited Zambia’s winning goal which he claimed was scored in controversial circumstances as the game was at a brief half when the Zambians committed an offense worthy of a penalty.
“The umpire on the Malawi side signaled for a penalty, but the opposing umpire waved play on resulting into the goal. The whole team and the fans anticipated a penalty when the umpire signaled but to the shock of the players and other spectators, the umpire on the Zambian side waved play on and the Zambians took advantage to score,” he said.
Malawi went on to lose the final 1-0 after a brilliant 3-1 win over hosts Tanzania.
Mbawala said there was need for the team to continue playing in order to build cohesion. Head coach Geoff Biya expressed excitement with the team’s participation at the tournament.
Biya said his players learnt some lessons which will assist in the developing of the game in the country.
“It was not easy to finish on that position after a twenty-year absence from the international scene. The boys played with one heart. We have learnt a lot especially from Tanzania who looked tougher and more experienced than Zambia,” Biya said.
Biya appealed to Hockey Association of Malawi (HAM) to ensure that the team is maintained and has more international exposure.
“We had a lot of players below the age of twenty. We did this deliberately for the sake of continuity. We should be planning for tomorrow. With more international games, the team can only get better,” he added.
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