One of the most popular ways fans show support for their favourite player or team is by wearing their replica jerseys, which display teamâ€™s colours and favourite player name and number.
They may even have the jersey customised to display the playerâ€™s name or nickname.
While this is the practice the world over, the Flames are yet to enjoy such support from their fans.
Whenever the Flames are playing at home, the stadium is filled to capacity. When they are playing away fans get tuned to the radio or glued to the TV until the match ends, but when it comes to buying Flamesâ€™ replica jerseys, just a handful dare cough their money. Is it lack of patriotism, economic hardship or lack of marketing by FAM?
Yet, if one visits pubs and other entertainment places during weekends, Malawians are draped in colours of their favourite English football clubs. Some of the jerseys are of pure class, signifying that money could not really be the problem Flames replica jerseys have not sold well.
â€œI have always said the K9 000 retail price for the Flames jersey is not as exorbitant as people would like to portray it. A passionate and patriotic fan can always save something for their beloved team. It is about national pride and patriotism,â€ said Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu in a recent interview.
One Lilongwe-based Flames fan, Ishmael Bakali, concurred with Nyamilandu that K9 000 is not a lot of money for something one values.
â€œThe problem is that most of us Malawians have no saving culture, thatâ€™s why we think K9 000 is a lot of money. Even if I am a shop keeper, in four months I can save enough a Flames jersey. The same, I think, could apply to civil servants,â€ said Bakali.
He believes the new market approach by FAM, in which they are engaging companies where employee are offered to buy the jerseys in three-month instalments will work.
â€œI work in a shop and that is the way we sale products such as furniture and music systems. Most Malawians cannot afford to pay for a fridge or a bed at once, instead they pay in instalments. At the end of the day everyone is happy. We make profit and they have their needs,â€ he said.
Another Lilongwe fan, Martin Chikhadza, who works as a salesman, thinks FAM has not done enough to market the products.
â€œIt is a matter of developing a sound marketing strategy. FAM has not invested in advertisements. Few people know where to buy the Flames jerseys. There is need for aggressive marketing to entice people as they do in other countries,â€ said Chikhadza.
Nsejjere Casual and Sports Wear president Siraje Kibireje says the key to the sale of replica shirts is advertising.
â€œThe advertising should reach every corner of the country. There should be a bang and people should know the quality and also where to buy the product. Advertising is the key in marketing,â€ said Kiraje during the launch of the Silver Strikers replica jersey deal last April.
Just like Silver, FAMâ€™s approach to advertising has been lukewarm.
FAM commercial manager Casper Jangale admitted in a recent interview that because of the limitation in resources, it has not been easy to make a splash.
â€œBut I believe we have done enough considering our limitations though we could have done better. However, I have hope in the new market approach. By involving companies we are increasing our market base and reaching out to a lot of people. We will continue to diversify our market approach until we reach all the masses,â€ said Jangale.
Meanwhile, the replica business faces threat of cheap counterfeit material.
â€œWe are aware of the counterfeit threat. We are working towards countering that. We appeal to every Malawian to try and help identify conmen,â€ said Nyamilandu when told about Flames fake replica jerseys on the market.
Neighbours, Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), are losing millions of kwacha to counterfeits of Chipolopolo replica jerseys flooding the market since the Africa Cup of Nations.
According to FAZ vice-president Boniface Mwamelo, the association contracted Nike to print 10 000 replica jerseys which have been distributed to authorised dealers and are selling at between 250 000 and 300 000 Zambian kwacha each, but vendors are selling their counterfeits at between K85 000 and K100 000.Â