Three teams that have contributed the highest number of players to the Flames have expressed reservations with the Malawi National Football Team’s camping trip to Saudi Arabia.
The Flames are scheduled to depart for Saudi Arabia on March 8 for a two-week camping in preparation for back-to-back 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Pharaohs of Egypt later this month.
But Silver Strikers, Mighty Mukuru Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets, have faulted the timing of the trip, saying it will affect their preparations for the forthcoming season which kicks off on April 1.
Silver coach Pieter de Jongh, has since vowed not to release his players for the trip, saying apart from being outside Fifa calendar dates, he wont have enough time to fine tune his charges.
The Central Bankers have contributed six players, namely goalkeeper Charles Thom, defender Nickson Mwase and Mark Fodya, midfielders Chimwemwe Idana and Zebron Kalima and striker Stain Dave.
In an interview yesterday, the Dutch coach said: “It is important that we act professionally and follow the rules if Malawi football is to develop.
“The Fifa caledar dates are between March 20 to 28, then why is it that they want five to six of my players as well as my goalkeeper coach [Victor Mphande] outside Fifa calendar?
“How is it possible that I come up with results when I will not have six players? From the Saudi Arabia camping, the team will be in camp for another two weeks for Afcon qualifiers and the other week the season kicks off. It means I won’t have enough time to prepare my team. It’s a joke.
“I have worked for five FAs [football associations] as a coach and technical director and working as a national coach is different to being a club coach because with the national team, you only have three or four activities in a year and the challenges are different.
“So, I am not releasing my players.”
De Jongh said he has already informed Silver’s technical committee about his position.
“We had a meeting last weekend and they are aware about it,” he said.
His Wanderers counterpart Mark Harrison, whose team has contributed seven players, has also faulted the camping period and has asked authorities at Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and Super League of Malawi to consider shifting next season’s kick-off date.
In an interview, the Briton said: “The [camping] arrangement is ideal for the national team, but it is absolutely no good for us. It’s a disaster.
“It doesn’t make life easy and I don’t think they considered the teams when they were planning the trip. It would probably help if they could consider shifting the kick-off date.”
Wanderers have contributed defenders Miracle Gabeya, Stanley Sanudi, Lawrence Chaziya; strikers Gaddie Chirwa, Chiukepo Msowoya, Christopher Kumwembe and Mphatso Kamanga.
On his part, Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga, whose side has contributed six players, said: “Much as it is important to support the national cause, timing of the trip doesn’t help preparations of the teams, to be honest.
“It means coaches have key players away while preparing for the new season. In future, we shall need to take serious precautions.”
In reaction, Flames coach Mario Marinica said coaches need to understand the situation.
He said: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But as coaches we have to have some level of behavioural flexibility in our approach.
“Let’s hope that the Silver Strikers players are not disadvantaged for not being released by the club for the training camp as previously agreed.
“It is well known that we select players based on form regardless of the club they come from.
“Silver Strikers players were not allowed to participate in the practice match against Lesotho unlike other players like Bullets and Wanderers, who may play in the upcoming international bonanza scheduled for March 3 to 5.
“This means that I many not have the chance to observe and assess the Silver Strikers players.”
Marinica said players that will make the Saudi Arabia trip will have a chance to be further observed and incorporated within the Flames’ playing philosophy.
“As you know, from our past experiences the camps are vital for the Flames to become a strong and united team,” he said.