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Self-inflicted football disaster

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By Peter Kanjere:

HAS WON TWICE IN 21 GAMES—RVG

Malawi is in a state of mourning following the death of 21 people in a road accident at Kampepuza in Ntcheu last week and, a few weeks ago, 56 others who succumbed to the wrath of nature especially in the Shire Valley. So, anyone who seeks to pile more misery on this nation should be condemned and treated with contempt.

While Zimbabwe, which is also in a state of mourning after being ravaged by perennial hyper-inflation, food scarcity and, of late, Cyclone Idai, is, alongside Burundi, Tanzania and Namibia, celebrating their national football teams’ qualification to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals, Malawi football is celebrating failure. Once again.

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The latest national football team disaster is self-inflicted and should have been avoided if Walter Nyamilandu stopped growing promises and harvesting failure at his Chiwembe Township farm in Blantyre. He should have accepted failure and do the needful.

The underperformance of Malawi under-23 national team and that of its celebrated-for-nothing seniors is a fresh scratch on the festering wound that even after being ravaged by Cyclone Idai, hype-inflation and smarting from years of ethnic conflict, Zimbabwe and Burundi are still, somehow, better than Malawi in just about every discipline, including football.

The Flames and the under-23 have joined the under-17, 20 and women’s team in merely participating in international competitions without coming close to winning silverware, let alone qualifying for the actual finals.

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The Flames, in every respect, are a picture of disaster. In the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers, the Flames wound up having managed to score twice in six matches while conceding six goals.

In 21 games under his watch, Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG) has won twice in all competitions and the Flames winless in two consecutive Cosafa Cup editions in which they have scored just once since 2017.

You see, we all the time make the classic mistake of thinking that football is about 11 men kicking and miskicking the ball.

Football never takes place in a vacuum. Football is about international relations and diplomacy; it is about life and death for the extremists. It is about happiness for 90 minutes for the depressed and poor. Football is economics, culture, pride, history.

The game is much, much bigger than we think. Much bigger than one individual.

Football is not round as we see it because it has always been dynamic—it can take the shape it wants.

It can humble you even when you have ascended to the highest football office of Fifa and remind you that your personal glory is just that—personal and does not matter, the Twitter and Football Connect propaganda, mean that your national football is up the scale of Barcelona.

If anything, comparing your confused national team style of play to that of a club such as Barcelona epitomises the biggest confusion of Tower of Babel proportions.

The ‘We are rebuilding, we have finished unbeaten at home in Afcon qualifiers’ is social media propaganda that should not be substituted for an apology when two national teams are dumped out of international competitions inside a week due to technical football mismanagement advanced in the name of rebuilding—not even building a bridge on Lake Malawi can last forever like that.

You see, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) has, over the years, successfully finished building everything but successful national teams.

The association has built capacity of 100 Caf A and B coaches, elegant Mpira Village and Chiwembe Stadium but when it comes to national teams, under the direction of coaching rookie RVG—the latest scapegoat for our hereditary failure—all is built with sand.

How else do you explain a situation where an under-23 team beats Botswana 2-1 away then RVG comes to interfere by imposing his thick-skinned failures in the starting XI then, suddenly, the junior team becomes as inept and sick as its seniors—unable to score and win even in training?

Who is supposed to listen to the gospel of rebuilding when among all Flames and under-23 players, there is no trainable teenager but merely stunted 28-year-olds?

When shall this rebuilding end when, after two years of experimenting, there is no regular starting XI that can even beat Mauritius?

Truth is that this Fam regime has not succeeded in developing talent to replace the batch which they inherited. The likes of James Sangala, Peter Mponda, Peter Mgangira, Elvis Kafoteka, Maupo Msowoya, Esau Kanyenda, Russell Mwafulirwa, Robert Ng’ambi, Joseph Kamwendo, Hellings Mwakasungula, Swadick Sanudi, Allan Kamanga were products of the sound youth development programme of the 1990s and, once these departed the national stage, it has been hit-and-miss on talent identification.

This is why, even after introducing some semblance of youth football leagues, the supply chain of talent is not producing anything exceptional due to age-cheating, lack of transition from one stage to another and harmonised talent development structure. There is also overemphasis on competitions instead of development.

Add to the fact that junior national teams remain short-term projects aligned to once-off competitions and Super League clubs’ lack of international football exposure then you have the harvest as the poor Flames, poor referees, poor administrators, poor players, poor coaches, poor performance… poor everything.

If you want change, it must start from Chiwembe.

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