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Why Flames can’t play African, European giants

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For a long time the Malawi national football team, the Flames, have failed to secure a friendly match against the world’s football giants, and Football Association of Malawi (Fam) has admitted that the trend is set to continue since the association bears the burden of securing a friendly match.

While neighbours such as Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique have played world giants in the name of Brazil and Portugal, the 50-year old Flames are yet to have that privilege.

Fam Chief Executive Officer, Suzgo Nyirenda, admitted that it is almost ‘impossible’ for the Flames to play top sides in friendly matches because Fam does not use match agents when looking for friendly matches.

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Fam is the only association in the Cosafa region that does not engage match agents.

Nyirenda said the situation is like that because of the cost implications attached to using the agents and ‘suspicion’ from several stakeholders.

On average, an agent would want a fee of about $5,000 (about K4 million) to arrange a single match and the figure rises depending on the strength of the team.

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“It is unfortunate that in Malawi people tend to be angry when Fam uses agents for friendly matches. Unfortunately, in today’s world football, it is almost impossible to stage an international friendly match without involving the agents. Engaging agents in Malawi is a crime as it is perceived as of resources and it is not surprising that Malawi ends up playing the same countries for friendly matches-its either Tanzania or Mozambique. People in Malawi are always suspicious even when one is praying to God and involvement of agents is always suspected as one way of fraud,” Nyirenda explained.

There are also high costs to bear when playing European or South American giants since the teams demand an appearance fee.

CEO of the world’s most famous soccer agents, MCI Sport, Mevy Pierre Azaria indicated that teams such as Brazil, Argentina and Spain demand an appearance fee of $2 million (K1.4 billion).

Teams such as Honduras, USA and El Salvador require an appearance fee of about (K72 million) which is not that far from Fam’s annual subvention from government.

Fam thus resolved to use its personal relationship with other football associations to secure friendly matches, mostly with teams from Southern Africa.

However, Flames legend and former technical director and national team coach, Jack Chamangwana, said the Flames do not need to play top European or South American teams to succeed.

“From a technical point of view, a coach just needs about two friendly matches to try out different tactics on how to play either away or at home. A friendly match against any team also gives the coach an opportunity to come up with his first team. While it is a bonus to play top teams, it is not a must. Any friendly match can help a coach plan for competitive fixtures,” he said.

An outlook into the future indicates that Malawians have to wait longer to watch their national team play top European, South American and Asian teams if the status quo prevails.

This means less exposure of Malawian players to the world’s biggest football scouts and agents.

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