This is how we always do it. When there is very little hope that we can do something, we shock everyone and deliver. When our hopes are, therefore, raised and a positive result is almost foregone, we crumble under the resulting pressure. That has been the story of the Flames which has been handed down from one generation to another. One wonders what is responsible for that.
Ahead of the away fixture against Namibia’s Brave Warriors, not many Malawians gave our boys a chance to do well because of our history against them. Until that time, we had not beaten them and our coach was forced to return home a day or two before the game to attend to a family bereavement. How could a team without its leader rewrite history? But there it was, victory for the Flames.
With that feat in the bag, Malawians started to believe in the team again and felt we had a team that was going to steamroll not only the Brave Warriors but also the Harambee Stars of Kenya here at home. In our minds, the only tricky fixture ahead of us was the away encounter against the Super Eagles of Nigeria which many thought would decide the winner of the World Cup qualifier group.
Come Wednesday, there was very little in the game to inspire hope and while the goalless draw was not fatal, it makes our chances to progress more remote than was the case before, what with Nigeria winning away in Nairobi. It now means we are two points adrift and now need to win our remaining matches. Our fate is no longer firmly in our hands and we may now be hoping for a favour from others.
But we have to remain hopeful. As I pointed out earlier, the Flames seem to be at their best when very little is expected of them. They like doing things the harder way. They might just surprise us — and the world — by beating both Harambee Stars and the Super Eagles. Now, for a team that has only won once so far in the group that would be some feat. Go for it Ng’onamo and the team!
Talk of Ng’onamo, I am reminded of the return of Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho to Chelsea which was confirmed earlier this week after being fodder for speculation over the last month or so. There is a lot of excitement among the Stamford Bridge faithful who have been singing his name during matches since the sacking of another favourite Roberto di Matteo last November.
It is easy to understand the fans’ feelings. Here is a man that led the team to its first league title after 50 years and topped it up with another title, two League Cups and FA Cup glory in just over three seasons in London. If one adds his achievements at Porto and Inter Milan, it is very tempting to think his return means an instant return to the glory days for Roman Abramovich’s side.
Yet, I would be cautiously optimistic if I were one of them, not only because they say you don’t go back but especially because the manager’s spell at Real Madrid has exposed his limitations. He has so far shown the ability to succeed in different conditions but certainly not all. That is why Chelsea fans should be hoping that the conditions at the club and in the Premier League now favour his strengths.