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We came close to World Cup — Lawrence Waya

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Malawi football great, Lawrence ‘Lule’ Waya, has said the Flames nearly qualified for the Fifa World Cup finals in the early 1990s, but it would take restructuring of the local football setup for the current national team to revive that dream.

Waya, who works as an auditor in Polokwane, South Africa, is following the ongoing World Cup in Russia keenly and gave his opinion on what it would take for the Flames to even dare dream of participating in such a competition.

“We nearly qualified in 1990. We were robbed by referees in Egypt. We lost the game 1-0 but the result was supposed to be 1-1. With a draw, we could have proceeded to date Algeria in the final qualifying round of the World Cup. Algeria could have been a walk over for us because we were beating North African teams easily. The only difficult team for us was Cote d’Ivoire,” the Nyasa Big Bullets legend said.

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Waya then gave a diagnosis and prescription of ailing local football, adding that he was willing to help revive Malawi football if given the platform. He is a qualified football administrator and coach.

Waya said delinking football/ sports from education is the root cause of the dwindling standards.

“We need to ensure that youth football development is revived. The under-20 [league] should go back to schools so that children should be involved in football and sports in general. We need to entice cup sponsors for schools and create a big pool of players.

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“I am a product of school football. In our schools, we also need qualified coaches so that they should teach kids the basics of the game because when you are young, you remember things easily than when you are old.

“Zambia have overtaken us because they have a big pool of players and it is a matter of time before they qualify for the World Cup finals. Most of the teams that qualify for the World Cup from Africa draw their players from Europe. We also need mindset change on the part of football administrators because they focus too much on the senior national team. Football has to start from the grassroots,” Waya said.

Earlier, former football stars, Peterkins Kayira and Chancy Gondwe, separately also shared Waya’s sentiments on the sidelines of a friendly which Multichoice Malawi hosted in Ntcheu two weeks ago to mark the World Cup kick-off.

“The football administrators need to pull up their socks because, frankly speaking, we are not progressing. We cannot even qualify for Cosafa Cup [quarter-finals] and Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals. If you cannot qualify for these two competitions, how then can you qualify for the World Cup?” Gondwe wondered.

Taking his turn, Kayira was quoted as saying Malawi has better players now but they lack discipline.

“During our time, we were dedicated and it was unfortunate that we did not make it to the World Cup finals but we nearly made it,” Kayira said.

The World Cup remains a matter of fantasy for the Flames as they have never even won the Cosafa Cup and have been to the Afcon finals in 1984 and 2010 only.

The Flames are winless in six consecutive Cosafa Cup games, a clear indication of how the team’s standards have slumped. In Southern Africa, only South Africa and Angola have been to the World Cup finals.

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