Liberia and Malawi have one thing in commonâ€”they are the only African countries that have female heads of stateâ€”Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Joyce Banda respectively.
And while Banda triumphed over her Liberian idol when she was named the most powerful African woman by Forbes Magazine, her national football team, the Flames, played second-fiddle to Johnson Sirleafâ€™s Lone Star when they met in an international friendly match on Tuesday night.
The match was part of the two teamsâ€™ preparations for Saturdayâ€™s Africa Cup of Nations final qualification round first legs in which the Flames face Ghana whereas Liberia will host the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
The Flames were left searching their soul after they went down 1-0 to Liberia at Samuel Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia.
And Flames coach Kinnah Phiri tore into some of his foreign-based players, accusing them of lacking the fighting spirit during the build-up match against Liberia.
Kinnah had no kind words for some of his foreign-based players whom he accused of lacking the hunger.
The Flames were once again haunted by their lapse in concentration in the dying minutes, when their hosts scored the lone goal of the match through midfielder Zah Rahan Krangar whose powerful drive squirmed past goalkeeper Simplex Nthala with only two minutes to full time.
After the match, Kinnah could not hide his disappointment with some foreign-based players in an interview with Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). He accused them of being â€˜lazyâ€™.
“Most of them were just walking on the pitch,” said Kinnah.
While Kinnah could not name the players he was referring to, a well-placed source said he suspected the coach was referring to striker Atusaye Nyondo and Peter Wadabwa whose presence was insignificant during the match.
However, Kinnah said he was impressed with the performance of the team in general and local players in particular.
“It seems some professional players are not fully fit and that might force me to use more local players against Ghana,” said Kinnah.
One of the senior players who asked for anonymity blamed the loss on defensive approach.
Kinnah used the 4-5-1 formation which he also plans to use against the Black Stars.
“I do not think the coach is being fair by criticising the foreign-based players.
“Our game-plan was somehow awful and as such we were kept on the back foot, especially in the second-half,” said the player.
According to media reports, the Flames controlled the proceedings in the first-half in which they had two close attempts through lone striker Nyondo and Joseph Kamwendo.
However, despite solid defending and plenty of possession, the Flames could not break the Liberian defence.
Nyondo was taken off stage towards the end of the first-half for wonderkid Gabadinho Mhango, but his introduction had little impact. Later, in the second-half, Kinnah substituted Wadabwa and Kamwendo for Jimmy Zakazaka and Robert Ngâ€™ambi respectively.
In the second-half, there was renewed purpose in the hosts play, forcing the Flames into rearguard action and Nthala kept out several dangerous attempts.
However, renowned soccer commentator Charles Nyirenda said pundits should not read much into the outcome of the game because Liberia are also solid on home soil.
“Our teamâ€™s preparations were also shabby in a way because we failed to play a planned friendly match [against Uganda].
“The other thing was that we were playing this game just four days before a crucial match and there was a high risk of injuries; hence, they had to exercise a lot of caution. Of course, it would have been awkward to face Ghana without a friendly match,” said Nyirenda.
The Flames were scheduled to leave for Accra at around 4pm yesterday.
Flames line-up: Nthala, Limbikani Mzava, Pilira Makupe, Moses Chavula, James Sangala, Chimango Kaira, Dave Banda, Kamwendo (Ngâ€™ambi), Wadabwa (Zakazaka), Frank Banda, Nyondo (Gabadinho).