The Flames crashed out of the Cosafa too quickly after just one match against Mozambique in the quarter-finals, giving doomsayers and naysayers the opportunity they were looking for to condemn and shout profanities.
True, the Flames have become a team that you would watch at your peril if your blood pressure is prone to rise at any negative excitement, but I choose to be optimistic.
Not that the Flames deserve sympathy; however, on the balance of the five matches they have played, it is clear that Young Chimodzi and Jack Chamangwana might be building a team that could deliver in the near future.
So far, the Flames have played five games against Zambia (0-2), South Africa (0-2), Mozambique (0-0) (4-5), South Africa (0-0) (4-5) on penalties and winning against Zambia yesterday. It is clear to see that there is some progress being registered.
However, the coaching panel should improve on a few minor issues. First of all, our players should not lose concentration towards the end of the match. This has been a perennial problem with Flames.
Against Mozambique, The Flames scored a winning goal in the 89th minute and everyone thought the match was over, only for the Mambas to equalise in the same breath. Does it mean that Flames don’t know anything about delaying tactics. There was a player who was injured on the touchline, but he woke up quickly and entered the fray, why?
And why did the Flames panel use Limbikani Mzava in central defence when he is a right-back. It is clear that lack of game time has eroded some of the confidence from the player and using him in the central defence was suicidal. The players also need psychologists to calm their nerves. All the goals conceded against Mozambique came because of pressure. The players need someone to instill mental strength in them before matches.
There are a number of positives to take from the Cosafa. The performance of players Mecium Mhone and John Banda has shown that we have wingers who can stretch our opponents and put in crosses. In fact, wingers have been the missing link in the Flames set-up for a long time. But the pace and agility with which these two players operated during the Cosafa games was heart-warming.
Not to forget, young Gerald ‘Papa’ Phiri. The boy is a natural winger and if Flames has a future it is in this boy. This is the team that should be groomed all the way and play in the Afcon qualifiers.
However, you and I know what the Flames coaching panel will do against Zimbabwe in a fortnight to come. They will remove these youngsters who are playing well and replace them with the so-called ‘professionals’ like Joseph Kamwendo, Robert Ng’ambi, Essau Kanyenda, Atusaye Nyondo and company.
And that will be the end of the Flames for me. Players like Kamwendo like to pass the ball backwards. At Cosafa, we have seen the Flames stringing passes all the way to the front. This is what we want to see not a midfielder who can’t run, can’t tackle , but can only pass backwards. That Kanyenda’s time is gone is no brainer. It’s time for these youngsters to shine.
Last but not least, I would like to warn football administrators in the country that if they are not careful, they will experience what has happened in Zurich where US marshals invaded FIFA headquarters and arrested officials on corruption charges.
Some football administrators in the country have not been transparent enough in their operations. Some team is still struggling to pay bills incurred during the CAF champion’s league despite realising money from those games. It is this lack of transparency that is taking football backwards.
I laugh when people tell me that government has spent K40 million to rehabilitate BAT ground because at the moment the ground is in a worse condition. But one day, do not say you were not told.