By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi national women’s football team coach, MacNebert Kazuwa has named a 35-member squad to prepare for the 2020 Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Championship scheduled for Nelson Mandela Bay in South Africa from November 3-14.
This also signals the start of women’s international schedules on the African continent since the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc causing all mass gatherings to be cancelled since March this year.
COSAFA also intends to stage its Women’s Under-17 Championship concurrently with the senior competition providing some much-needed international competition in this crucial age-group.
Most football games across the world, including Malawi, are being played without the physical presence of players but made readily available through TV coverages.
Meanwhile, Kazuwa has included China-based sisters, Tabitha and Temwa Chawinga, who have just concluded their 2020 season last weekend with Temwa guiding her side Wuhan to the Chinese Women’s Super League championship in her debut season.
The two are set to make their return to the COSAFA Championship following their last appearance in the 2017 edition in Zimbabwe.
Now coined as ‘The Scorchers’ from the original nickname of ‘She-Flames’, Kaluwa started camp training on Thursday (Mother’s Day) at the Mpira Village in Blantyre.
According to Football Association of Malawi (FAM), Southern Region-based players started arriving at Mpira Village on Wednesday afternoon while those from the Centre and North were expected to join them on Thursday morning.
FAM says all the local based players tested negative of COVID-19 after undergoing tests in the past three days and were also expected to undergo further medical and fitness tests on Thursday.
They are also expected to be sensitised on COVID-19 camping guidelines orientation before they start their training sessions.
The full squad:
* Goalkeepers: Mercy Sikelo (Ntopwa Super Queens); Thoko Mwale (Blantyre Zero); Memory Banda (Skippers); Ruth Mhango (DD Academy); Samir Amidu (DD Sunshine)
* Defenders: Chimwemwe Madise; Ruth Nyirongo; Tionge Phiri (all DD Sunshine); Maureen Phiri (CY Sisters); Patricia Nyirenda; Sylvia Phiri; Saliva January (all Ntopwa); Emily Jossam; Fatsireni Kazembe (both Skippers)
* Midfielders: Madyina Ngulube; Fanny Mwale; Wezzie Mvula; Sabina Thom; Caroline Mathyola (all DD Sunshine); Salome Vinkhumbo; Zainab Kapanda; Pilirani Malora; Lyna James (all Blantyre Zero); Grace Yotamu (Ntopwa); Chikondi Gondwe (CY Sisters)
* Strikers: Vanessa Chikupira; Mary Chavinda (both Blantyre Zero); Chipo Ngwenya; Naomi Mwale (both Moyale Sisters); Asimenye Simwaka (Topik Sisters); Yamikani Mhango (Ntopwa Super Queens); Fazira Chiyembekeza; Loveness Nyakamera (both Skippers); Tabitha Chawinga (Jiangsu Suning, China); Temwa Chawinga (Wuhan Jiangda-China).
COSAFA’s website indicates that the Women’s Championship will feature eight teams, split into two groups of four, who will battle it out for a place in the semifinals.
The strong competing field has defending champions, South Africa; Malawi; Angola; Botswana; Comoros Islands; Zambia; Zimbabwe and East Africans Tanzania as this year’s guest nation.
The draws for both championships are scheduled for Tuesday, October 20, and will be streamed live on COSAFA.TV.
South Africa have won the past three editions of the tournament and are the most successful team with six triumphs out of seven editions. Zimbabwe won the other edition.
South Africa narrowly defeated Zambia 1-0 in final of the last edition and will be poised to continue their COSAFA dominance.