Malawi National Football Team’s characteristic failure to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Gabon might reflect a general slump in football standards across Southern Africa.
Out of the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations’ (Cosafa) 14-member national teams, only Zimbabwe’s Warriors have qualified for the Afcon finals with 11 points after finishing as Group L leaders.
Only Zambia and South Africa have ever won the Afcon championship from the region, whose standards are affected by limited exports of footballers to big leagues of Europe, clubs’ failure to compete in continental competitions and a dysfunctional youth football system.
The Flames finished the botched up Group L qualifying race on a high after defeating Swaziland 1-0 at Kamuzu Stadium on Sunday, thanks to Gerald Phiri Jnr’s eighth minute wonder free-kick.
Malawi, who were the only team to register a win in the final round of the qualifiers over the weekend, wound up the group’s assignments with five points, three points behind third and second-placed Guinea and Swaziland, respectively.
Zimbabwe, who lost 0-1 in Guinea during an academic match also on Sunday, joined the line-up of 15 other finalists mostly drawn from North and West Africa with Uganda as the only flag carrier for East Africa.
Lesotho sports journalist, Mikia Ntanda, yesterday told The Daily Times that the struggles of Cosafa’s team should serve as a wake-up call to football administrators in the region.
“There is something that they are not doing well because it is the same story even in the club competitions. Yes, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns [both from South Africa] have done well over the last few years, but I think it is high time that our clubs took continental competitions seriously,” Ntanda said.
The qualified teams for the finals to be held from January 14 to February 5 2017 are Gabon (hosts), Tunisia, DR Congo, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea- Bissau, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Uganda and Togo.
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