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Weeks that might define Flames

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Flames coach Ernest Mtawali was on Friday expected to release a squad of home-based players ahead of Monday’s camp training for October 7, 2015 match in Tanzania.

Now, that should have been an easier task for Mtawali.

However, the next two weeks will be crucial for Mtawali on whether he might bow down to public sentiments and recall foreign-based seasoned players for this 2018 Fifa World Cup preliminary round, first leg match.

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Tough decisions require a thick skin and the path Mtawali took in disposing off some excess baggage that were not adding value to the Flames, was never going to be easy.

Afterall, there were some players who had drifted into the comfort zone because they were, irrespective of club form, dead certain of donning the black, red and green jersey.

Even former Flames captain, Peter Mponda, admitted that the path of change Mtawali pursued when travelling to Swaziland a fortnight ago, was long over-due.

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“Yes, this change was necessary and, it was a gamble. A gamble can work and sometimes it cannot,” the Fisd Wizards technical director, explained on Mtawali’s dropping of experienced players, including Joseph Kamwendo.

“We really needed this overhaul as there were some regulars who were in the comfort zone. But while, young players provide energy during games, the experienced one offers the brains.”

Ironically, Mponda has, at Wizards, been reluctant to beef up with experienced players.

Among the recently dropped players is Fischer Kondowe, who insists he is not bitter because he knows he will work extra hard and earn a recall.

Kondowe, on the other hand, admitted that it hurts that deserving experienced players who could have made a difference in Swaziland did not play.

Listening to all Flames discarded regulars, including Robert Ng’ambi, one gets an impression that the Flames, that drew 2-2 in Swaziland, was completely inexperienced.

Yet, Limbikani Mzava, Chiukepo Msowoya, Richard Chipuwa, Robin Ngalande, John Banda and Chimango Kaira, who made the starting XI, have a wealth of experience each with over 20 caps.

Over a decade ago such change also brought resistance. On a blistering Saturday afternoon of Gaborone in 2003, Englishman, Alan Gillet, gambled in throwing into the Flames deep end then youngsters, Rahim Ishmael, Ng’ambi, Jimmy Zakazaka, Moses Chavula and Kamwendo.

Gillet took this decision at the expense of experienced, but ageing legs including the then experienced midfielders John Maduka and Mtawali.

Gillets cheated defeat by the skin of his teeth, as having trailed 1-0, Chavula powered in a leveller with a minute to go, and drag the Cosafa quarter-final match into post-match penalty lotteries, which the Flames eventually won.

“Until that moment I thought I had seen the face of defeat,” a relieved Gillet said in a post-match interview. The following year, caretaker coaches such as John Kaputa and Yasin Osman abandoned the youngsters.

Since that time, Stephen Constantine made the last noteworthy gamble when he took to 2006 Cosafa Cup in Swaziland Tawonga Chimodzi before eventually squeezing him into the starting XI in a home Nations Cup match against Morocco.

Now, the Greek-based Tawonga, is the only Malawian playing in a top league in Europe.

Because history always finds a way of repeating itself, the wholesale changes have brought massive resistance, if not rebellion, right from the Flames squad with the very same Ng’ambi in the forefront.

“When I was young, I was introduced gradually,” Ng’ambi claimed, obviously forgetting that he was not even a regular for club when he was capped.

The coach handed debuts to Manase Chiyesa, Chawanangwa Kawonga and Yamikani Chester to join other young brigade such as Stanley Sanudi, Isaac Kaliyati, Brighton Munthali and Gerald Phiri Jnr.

The fruits of investing in the young legs might not be immediate. Certainly, not for this 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Cup campaign, let alone the World Cup, but maybe for 2019.

Therefore, in as far as player selection is concerned, the next two weeks will be critical for Mtawali

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