There is need to keep refreshing Flames’ squads in order to remain in contention for a place at continental showpieces

* It is unfortunate that we have been unable to replicate our excellent performance in the current AFCON campaign

* However, for me, this does not in any way erase the new record we set for ourselves in 2022, a record that will stay on our memories for years to come

By Duncan Mlanjira

Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president, Walter Nyamilandu believes the Flames failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Côte d’Ivoire 2023 because they were overtaken by the euphoria of 2022 AFCON exploits in Cameroun.


“But this failure is also important because it has taught us many lessons — one of which is that we need to keep refreshing our squads as time passes if we are to remain in contention for a place at such continental showpieces.”

He said this on Saturday during FAM annual general meeting (AGM) held at Chatonda Lodge in Nkhata Bay, saying the Flames were able to attain the most significant outcome of qualifying to the AFCON in 2022 where they did exceptionally well by reaching the Round of 16.

“I take great pride in this historical achievement that raised the spirit of soccer loving Malawians,” he said. “It is unfortunate that we have been unable to replicate our excellent performance in the current AFCON campaign.

“However, for me, this does not in any way erase the new record we set for ourselves in 2022, a record that will stay on our memories for years to come.

“As we all know, running a successful national team hinges on being consistent with performance. Competition for a place at such a major showpiece is cut throat.”

Thus he shared his view the failure taught many lessons to keep refreshing the squads as time passes, saying “this boils down to having strong nurseries of youth national teams that will serve as a pipeline of high performance players for the Flames”.

“I am mindful that as we prepare to bounce back, we are faced with a setback of insufficient funds to build a national team that can match the best. The downward spiral in public funding for the Flames that we are experiencing is worrying to us.

“It is, therefore, my humble appeal to all those concerned that football deserves a fair share of funding. We need to rise above treating football as a social agent to an economic driver that’s equally critical to our realization of the MW2063 agenda as any other sector.”

And to build on that Nyamilandu added that FAM is passionate about going back to the roots of football, saying in the regional leagues, football is usually played for fun — but as it be can testified, “these regional leagues are the centre of football revolution in the country”.

“That is why FAM is investing in these leagues. We can all bear witness that in recent times, there has been a surge in the growth of rural football. The catalyst of this growth is our introduction of the FAM District Cup and the resurgence of the FAM Motto Division One League.

“We are seeing a rising competitiveness in the Regional Leagues. For this to happen, FAM made deliberate interventions to sponsor district football to the tune of K100 million. We also took over the sponsorship of the Division One Motto League by pumping in K45 million.

“Further, we complemented sponsorship of the Premier League with prize money amounting to K5 million towards the regional champions. I am happy to say that such integrated sponsorship has led to ‘Total Football’.

“Now we are organized. Now football clubs are making a real impact as testified by the growing numbers of players that are actively engaged in the game at that level.”


He took special recognition of the exploits of community-based district teams such as Ekwendeni Hammers, Extreme FC, Karonga United, Dedza and Chitipa United — which “are causing huge waves in the Super League”.

“Their performance in the elite league reminds us that we need to continue investing in raw and idle talent in the rural areas. However, the challenge remains on improving the capability of coaches and match referees that are managing the increased number of football clubs across the country.

“This goes hand in hand with addressing the shortage of football grounds and basic football equipment. This is our call in our mission to develop the sport.

Youth Football

Nyamilandu described this area as the future of football in Malawi that looks promising because of the breakthroughs FAM has made in setting up structures for boys and girls of different age groups to play football and develop their talent.

“In the absence of steady sponsorship, it was always going to be difficult to have a reliable platform of grooming talented players. However, we are delighted that we are now able to embark on such a fundamental campaign by making significant investment into the youth through increased FIFA Forward funding.

“To begin with, we have rolled out the Talent Development Scheme (TDS). This is a structured programme that is geared at identifying and carefully grooming exceptional talent. The first cohort that has been identified in the south has been undergoing training at Mpira Village.

This initiative is multipurpose in nature as it is also training a coach who is assigned to perfect the skills of a player from where he is based. In effect, these coaches have formed the baseline of scouts for talent in the communities in collaboration with the technical directorate.

“This effort is also the foundation stone to the setting up the first-ever School of Excellence that is underway at Luwinga Technical Centre. I should report that plans are at an advanced stage to get the School of Excellence up and running once construction of the football grounds has been completed this year.”

Nyamilandu added that these “lofty plans” have recently been boosted through partnership that was secured with FIFA through AFD and Play International, “who will jointly inject US$130,000 into the project for the first 15 months”.

“With such trusted partnership, we are assured that the academy will be a reality soon. Once established, Malawi will have a specialized nursery for developing talent 360 degrees; that is technically, physically, socially, mentally and economically.

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“It will be a system grounded on the values of gender sensitivity, education and economic empowerment. In addition, as a way of ensuring that our youth football development programs are systematic and integrated, FAM — in conjunction with the National Youth Football Committee, has rolled out the U-14 Nthanda and the U-16 M’mera Mpoyamba leagues which complement the Katswiri U-19 FCB league.

“These three youth leagues underpin the process of developing young players while providing them with a graduated pathway to the top of their careers. The critical task that lies ahead is to equip the coaches with the expertise needed to improve the quality of players to world class standard.

“And the next gap that we need to close is schools football. Admittedly, this has lagged behind since the withdrawal of Coca Cola Schools. Now that we have developed a good working relationship with MASSA which has led to Salima Secondary School winning bronze at the Africa Schools Championship, we are working tirelessly to bring back schools’ football.”

He also said FAM’s recent effort to roll out F4S programme is beginning to bear fruit as they have attracted a lot of schools to include football in their activities; also been able to attract schools to join competitions that are organised by MASSA “knowing very well that the winners stand a chance of pocketing lucrative cash prizes at the Africa Schools Championship”.

As we endeavour to unlock schools’ football, our number one priority is to secure steady sponsorship for the school teams. We are also lobbying for an enabling policy framework that will lead to physical education being mandatory in the schools.

“We have all the belief that the Ministry of Education is giving this matter some serious thought.”