Some TNM Super League clubs and the Under-23 national team have rejoiced at the first harvest of the inaugural Rough Diamonds Tournament at Bingu National Stadium (BNS) in Lilongwe, saying they have spotted talent to beef up their squads.
Under-23 national team coach Meke Mwase yesterday said in an interview they have picked four players who have since been drafted into the squad preparing for the March 20 Olympic and Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) first leg qualifier against Zambia while Super League giants Nyasa Big Bullets, Be Forward Wanderers and Civil Sporting Club have confirmed sendingscouts that have brought fresh harvest to their respective bases.
The two-day tournament, which comprised Southern, Central and Northern region select teams alongside the First Capital Bank Under-20 select side, concluded on Sunday at Bingu National Stadium (BNS) in Lilongwe with Southern Region Select becoming inaugural champions following a 5-2 triumph over Central Region Select in the finals on Sunday.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) introduced the annual contest as a centralised platform for top-flight league sides and national teams to scout and polish football talents that are hard to spot in rural and remote areas due to logistical and financial constraints.
Mwase yesterday said although the Junior Flames’ technical panel has already trimmed the camping squad from 35 players to 25, the extraordinary talents of four ‘rough diamonds’ Dan Chimbalanga, Walusungu Mpata, Nixon Nyasulu and Edward Mkanda were “too irresistible” to ignore.
He said: “We expect these new additions to join camp today. If they do well, they will make it into the final squad.”
Wanderers’ general secretary Mike Butao said they have identified three strikers to be drafted into their squads in preparation for the 2019 season while his Civil Sporting counterpart Ronald Chiwaula said they have taken on board four players. A Bullets board of directors member Albert Chigoga said they have also picked “a number of players” from the event.
However, Butao and Chiwaula said they would keep the names of their identified players under wraps for fear of being snatched by other clubs.
“We sent scouts that have brought us three strikers. Before we can reveal their names, we would like to first talk to the players, check their ages and see how they can fit into our system,” Butao said.
Football analyst George Kaudza Masina said with the latest initiative, FAM seems to have now started speaking the proper football language.
“In regional leagues, there is a lot of hidden talent that just lacks exposure. The Rough Diamonds Tournament is one of the many routes to polish and expose raw talent in the game. Successful teams of the past used to have vibrant youth sides to tap talent from unlike today when they fight for players that cannot even last for two seasons,” he said.
The tournament was sponsored by FAM to the tune of K20 million. n