Football Association of Malawi (FAM) says the Flames coach Mario Marinica’s performance will be under review once his contract expires next month.
The coach signed a year-long contract on April 5 2022 and, according to FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda, a decision will be made on his future after evaluation.
He was reacting to calls to fire the coach following the Flames’ appalling performance in the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
He said: “Just like in any other contract, the coach’s performance will be evaluated by the technical subcommittee which will also make its recommendation.”
Under Marinica, Malawi has lost three out of four qualifiers and lie third in Group D which also has Egypt, Guinea and Ethiopia.
With Egypt and Guinea tied at nine points, they just need a draw in the match between them to qualify for the finals to be hosted by Ivory Coast next January.
Malawi have outside chances of punching the ticket to the finals even if they beat Ethiopia and Guinea to finish on nine points as qualification will depend on the results from the match between Egypt and Guinea as well as the two teams against Ethiopia.
However, what has prompted the public outcry is the team’s performance in the back-to-back 2-0 and 0-4 losses to Egypt’s Pharaohs in Cairo on March 24 and at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe on March 28.
During Tuesday’s match, the Pharaohs were 3-0 up within 20 minutes through Tarek Hamed in the third minute, Omar Marmoush in the 16th and Liverpool star Mohammed Salah in the 19th, before they added the fourth in the 49th minute through Ahmed Sayed.
Fans turned against the Flames and started cheering the visitors while calling for the resignation of the Romanian tactician, who for his safety had to leave 10 minutes before the final whistle.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda described the Flames’ loss, which is the heaviest since 1975, as summarising the coach’s failure.
He said: “For those aged 48 or above this defeat was shattering and it will take a while before they come to terms with what they just witnessed because since March 30th 1975 when Malawi lost 1-6 against Zambia at Kamuzu Stadium in the first leg of Afcon qualifier before going on to draw 3-3 away in Ndola, never had the Flames lost at home by such a wide margin.”
But Marinica brushed aside the calls for his head and said he will see through his contract.
He said: “Let me put it straight. I am not a quitter. I am not quitting.”
On the conduct of the supporters, Marinica said: “They didn’t cheer for Malawi, they cheered for Egypt. They cheered for Mo Salah. They didn’t cheer for Gabadinho Mhango. It was like Malawi national football team against everyone.
“But it’s their choice. They like super stars like Mo Salah and we don’t have one. At the end of the day, people are free to express their opinion.
“I heard Malawi is the warm heart of Africa, but that is not what I saw. I saw a cold shoulder during the match.”
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu in April 2022 said the coach was given a target to qualify for 2023 Afcon and 2022 African Nations Championship.
But after the match, Marinica said there are no targets in his contract.
He said: “The targets you are saying they are not my targets. They are people’s targets. I don’t’ have targets in my contract. Obviously, I want to qualify for Afcon, but that’s not in my contract.”
FAM technical sub-committee vice-chairperson Suzgo Ngwira promised to respond to our questionnaire but she did not.
She said: “Let me come back to you later.”
Marinica was hired as technical director after a virtual interview, but was redeloyed to lead the Flames coaching panel in the delayed Cameroon 2021 Africa Cu of Nations with Mwase demoted.