Unless Football Association of Malawi (FAM) shifts from using its general secretary (GS) to organise international friendly matches, Malawi’s Flames will continue playing lowly-ranked teams, analysts have observed.
The analysts were reacting to FAM’s confession that it struggles to get friendly matches for the national team.
FAM GS Alfred Gunda last week said the association faces challenges to get high-profile teams to play friendlies against Flames.
He said: “We approached several teams all over the continent, but it’s very tough to get them to play us. It’s even difficult to convince them to come and play us at home. At the end of the day, we settle for what is available so that at least the national team plays on every Fifa calendar week.”
The Flames face Lesotho, ranked 146, this Saturday at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe. Last month, the Flames played Tanzania, ranked 136, in another international friendly.
But former FAM GS Suzgo Nyirenda, who is now Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) deputy chief executive officer, said FAM should start using agents when organising friendly matches.
He said: “Malawi is the only country in the region that still believes the GS should find friendly matches. Unless we accept agents as part of global football arena, then forget about playing good friendly matches. Otherwise, we will continue playing Tanzania year in, year out. Zambia, at one time had five agents, Zimbabwe had three and South Africa had four. Your GS can’t just approach these FAs to ask for friendlies directly.”
However, engaging agents require extra funds to pay the middlemen and most of them can fetch between $7 000 (about K5.1 million) and $20 000 (about K14.7 million).
“They [agents] may seem expensive, but they will come up with better friendly matches and they will organise on your behalf accommodation, visa issues, etc. Football is never cheap,” said Nyirenda.
“Participation fees are one way of attracting teams. Now participating fees range from $10 000 [about K7.3 million] to $50 000 [about K37 million]. This will definitely attract bigger opposition.”
But Gunda said lack of funds is the major setback.
“We know that we need to start using agents. But such things need to be factored in the budget. We cannot just wake up today and engage an agent. Where will we get the money from? But starting next financial year, we will consider that,” he said.
Fifa agent Felix Ngamanya Sapao said Malawi has to change its mindset and start running football as an investment.
He said: “You play friendlies to improve your performance and you can do that by playing a strong opponent with a good ranking. What will these top countries benefit from playing the Flames ranked 117?
‘‘Our mindset on football is very wrong. We want to reap where we did not sow. Nowadays, even the small teams such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, are asking for appearance fees.” n