Malawi’s insatiable habit of dispatching ill prepared teams to Confederation of African Football (Caf ) expeditions look set to continue this weekend.
Be Forward Wanderers and Masters Security FC begin their continental assignments away to Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with Atletico Petroleos de Luanda and AS Vita, in preliminary round first-leg matches of Confederation Cup and
Champions League Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Both representatives of Malawi had a fair share of distractions, on and off the pitch, to add doubts to their preparedness for such assignments.
In as far as Malawi’s representatives in the continental events is concerned, history seems to be repeating itself.
Masters players boycotted the last match of the 2017 TNM Super League season in a bid to force their management to pay outstanding dues said to be dating back to last November.
Nonetheless, the Lilongwe side re-grouped for the continental assignments after beefing up the coaching ranks with Lloyd Nkhwazi from Dwangwa United and players such as Rafiq Musa, Kondwani Lufeyo (from Wanderers) and Chimwemwe Kumkwawa from Mzuni FC.
On the pitch, Wanderers go into tomorrow’s battle of Kinshasa better prepared than Masters having played four warms-ups, losing 0-1 in Mozambique to UD Songo before returning home to thrash Masters 4-0, share spoils 1-1 with Mangochi Select then beat Nyasa Big Bullets 2-0.
Perhaps, the strength testing matches against Songo and Bullets gave Nomads a correct gauge of where they stand going forward.
Against Bullets at Bingu National Stadium, Wanderers Coach, Yasin Osman, deployed a cautious 4-2-3-1 system, which an experienced line-up executed with perfect ease.
Lucky Malata led the defence with aplomb, clearing anything that was thrown at him, Alfred Manyozo and Rafik Namwera provided cover in a midfield defensive role.
Joseph Kamwendo kept the midfield pot boiling whenever he roamed in a diamond formation also featuring Blessings Tembo and Yamikani Chester.
Chester could go wide and Tembo drift inside, vice versa, with Kamwendo. Upfront,
Chester appeared more of a false striker behind Peter Wadabwa.
In the first-half, which saw Kamwendo fire Wanderers in front with a wonder bullet in the 13th minute, it was clear that Nomads opted for a cautious and patient approach while attacking on the break through wing-backs, Ted Sumani and Stanley Sanudi.
It was a pragmatic system very unusual of Osman’s teams but one they certainly know would prove helpful against experienced Vita in hostile Kinshasa.
In the second-half, Osman appeared to have gone for plan A after throwing conventional winger Felix Zulu to add width to their play while Esau Kanyenda, then Niikiza Aimable, provided the focal point of attack.
In the first stanza, it was about attacking with long balls from either defence or goalkeeper Richard Chipuwa, while in the second-half, wingers were expected to get behind Bullets’ defence and pick out the strikers.
In contrast, Masters also beat newly promoted Super League side, TN Stars, 4-3, and also lost 2-0 to Bullets.
Nine goals conceded and four scored suggest that Masters are shaky in defence.
However, it is their failure to play foreign opposition ahead of the actual game against the Angolans that has heightened doubts on their pedigree at this level.
The gulf in class between Super League and international football is so wide that it would be difficult for the majority of Masters’ players to replicate their club form in Luanda.
It remains to be seen if Masters and Wanderers will represent Malawi well in the continental assignments.
Bullets were the last team to compete at this stage but exited the Champions League from the first-round after a 5-1 hammering by Sudan’s Al Hilal over two legs in 2015.
It was clear that Bullets, apart from the mere burning desire to compete and prove wrong perceived critics, were not prepared logistically that time.
Little wonder, Bullets are still in debts with travel agencies and hotels due to the Champions League adventure of three years ago.
In terms of exposure, Bullets’ 2004 Champions League participation provided plenty of it, with many players such as Fischer Kondowe, James Chilapondwa, Wisdom Ndlovu,
Peter Mponda, Jimmy Zakazaka and Robert Ng’ambi earning lucrative deals with teams in the region.
In 2015, no single Bullets player was sold outside Malawi as a result of Champion League.
And it was not surprising as Bullets played just four games in the 2015 edition compared to the 12 they played in 2004 when the team reached the group stages.
While Wanderers have an outside chance of sneaking past the preliminary round of the Champions League, it is difficult imagining Masters surviving even beyond the first leg.
Work is cut out for the two ambassadors of Malawi.
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