There are some constant variables that differentiate typical football nations from pretenders such as Malawi.
Typical football nations have thriving youth football competitions and teams at all levels, including the national team.
Football nations will always have their clubs participatingin regional and continental competitions every year.
Elite leagues have diversity of coaching and playing personnel brought by foreign players and coaches, thereby improving standards.
Conversely, such nations also export players and coaches to recognisable top leagues.
Organised football countries will always have football agents/intermediaries and academies.
Each town, city and school will always have standard football ground/stadium.
In functional football nations, sponsors queue up for football, and fans are civilised the idea of a supporter is not confined to the rowdy youth and the destitute.
How about pretenders such as Malawi?
Malawi has abundant football passion and talent. Probably, it is due to these two chief reasons that that Malawi football teams, once in a while, compete on the international stage.
Not that Malawi is a completely useless football place. Once in a while you get glimpses of something better such as the inaugural Fifa Under-15 football league.
However, apart from those flashes in the pan, there are many indicators proving local football has been on a reverse gear.
You know Malawi is a not a football nation when school blocks and market facilities are being erected on community centre grounds, thereby pushing children to alcohol and drug abuse.
When three big teams and national teams call a Valley of Dry Bones as their home, you know this is not a football nation.
While clubs from across the continent are participating in Caf Champions League and Confederations Cup, none of domestic clubs are even able to spell the acronym Caf.
Poor pre-season training on the local scene is evident.
While Mozambican clubs are travelling to South Africa for pre-season, Malawi clubs cannot even afford camp training in Salima.
-Pretenders will always be characterised by the death and resurrection of youth and junior national teams once in every five years.
You know this is not a football nation when promising Malawian players test Europe football in Spain and Denmark, yet strangely return home for petty reasons, while Nigerians and Cameroonians persevere and eventually make it to the English Premier League.
Evidence of being a sick football nation are clear when, despite being common knowledge that the Flames will travel to Guinea for a very tough Africa Cup of Nations game, the national team spend three months without kicking the ball.
You know this is not a football nation when all stakeholders, including fans and officials, defraud teams of gate collections.
Fake football nations will never have players worth being classified as world class.
If unqualified coaches manage top clubs and the elite league loses its cream of players to useless foreign leagues, then you have it — Malawi is not yet a football nation.
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