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Rubber of the turf

The Malawi National Football Team, alias the Flames, are a fascinating group. They are unrivalled when it comes to doing things the wrong way.

Recently, the Flames were on another paid-up trip abroad to do what they are best known for: embarrassing the nation. I must confess that I am envious of the Flames because they are amongst the luckiest groupings in Malawi that are funded and given a licence to humiliate the nation.

Two days ago, the Flames went to Tanzania to play Taifa Stars in a World Cup qualifier. To be honest, Taifa Stars are not a good team; their football is as clumsy and indecent as the Flames’. One would expect the Flames to, at least, get a draw and come home feeling triumphant. But the Flames were at their usual best: kicking the ball in the air, chasing it like drunken men, fumbling all over the place, shooting blanks, hitting the ball wherever their feet pointed to and what have you. Simply put, the Flames maintained their unparalleled legacy of a good example of how football should never be played like.

It does not take too many indicators to show that we have a pathetic team that is obviously on the out to give a nation a bad name. I am sure I said it earlier that the Flames’ tragic results are certain from the beginning. Firstly, it starts with the Halloween-like dressing of the technical panel. If you were to look at our technical panel, you would cringe at how the members look like they are in some costume and ready for a drama performances: huge jackets, baggy pants, terrible posture and what have you. But that is not the reason the Flames always lose and lose legendarily. I will tell you later why the Flames are that bunch of pathetic whipping boys.

Once upon a time, I had the privilege and honour of playing for the college’s football national team. That time, we were on a voluntary circus of exposing our poverty. While other teams like Botswana, Namibia and South Africa changed attire after each training session, we were always in the same clothes whose fabric was more of umbrellas than clothes. We were just too low on our confidence. Eventually, the best result we got was a 1-3 loss to Botswana. But that is not why we lost as well.

If you have noted, we are only at the top of lists that spell national doom. For instance, we perch high on the unemployment index, we are among the best in HIV/Aids prevalence, we are among the first names on corrupt countries just as we are a perfect example of nations that thrive on poverty. But we seem to have accepted this as our permanent state and we get angry when someone tries to correct us.

Take, as an example, how we refuse to accept that the Malawi National Football Team are a hopeless case. Whichever group the Flames are pooled in, the definite result is that they will fail miserably. Just recently, the team is failing to find its way past easy opponents like Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Tanzania yet some people still think this team is worth being trusted to represent the nation.

Malawians need t o seriously have a moment of reflection and accept that the problem with the national football team is not about the coach or the players that are involved at a particular time. The rot has deep roots emitted that need to be uprooted if at all people want to have some joy.

Malawian football needs a complete overhaul and it has to happen quickly. Ernest Mtawali has taken a bold step to phase out some of the time wasters who we erroneously call experienced players but things are not going right for him. But it matters less because even with those so called battle-hardened campaigners, the flames have always been a laughing stoke.

If you ask me, Mtawali might have taken a right path but the only problem he has is that, these players we think are youngsters for the future are actually beaten old guys who might be lying about their ages. So, in this case, Mtawali might be thinking he is building a future team when the ugly truth is that by the time these players start making sense, old age would have crept in and they will be either injury prone, out of form and expended. Someone once told me that when a Malawian footballer tells you about his age, you should take it as a number of years he has been playing football not years he has lived on earth.

What I am simply driving at is that our football is damn rotten and it needs serious redress. The administrators are just out there to make a living other than improve the game. The players are as terrible as those of us who have the chance to write about sports. The rot has a foul and repulsive stench just like that at Kamuzu Stadium from the rubber of the turf.

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