Major boost

Women’s national football team coach Abel Mkandawire has said availability of overseas-based strikers captain Tabitha Chawinga and her younger sister Temwa is a boost for Malawi against Kenya during the Olympics qualifier at at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on August 26.

The two sisters—who scored four and six goals, respectively—when Malawi thrashed Mozambique 14-1 on aggregate in the first-round, but missed the recent Cosafa Women’s Championship in South Africa, are expected to join the national team early next week.

Tabitha (R) captured in the thick of action against Mozambique

 In an interview yesterday, Mkandawire said the team, which regroups today at Mpira Village in Blantyre, in preparation for the encounter,  has improved and the two sisters will enhance the team’s cohesion.

He  said although Kenya banks on six overseas-based professionals against Malawi’s two, his side is not scared.

Kenya, who are ranked five steps above Malawi, have four of their players—Corazon Aquino, Teresha Engesha, Mary Kinuthia and Christine Nafula—who turn out for Swedish outfits while Marjolene Nekesa and Esse Akida play in United States of America and Israel, respectively.

“With the great improvements we made at Cosafa, we can take on any team on the continent, and with the addition of the Chawinga sisters, we can beat any team,” he said.

Mkandawire, however, said during their camping, they will still work on tightening their defence, improve on ball possession and sharpen ball passing accuracy.

Tabitha said she and her sister are ready to represent the country.

“I watched the team’s matches at Cosafa and I noticed a great improvement among my team-mates. Previously, only a few players were committed and we mostly lacked coordination, but now they are giving their all and, once we join the team in few days to come, I have no doubt that we will beat Kenya,” she said.

Tabitha said playing at home will also be an advantage as local fans give them the much-needed morale.

As we went to press, Tabitha said they had been released by their respective clubs—Jiangsu Suning and Kvarnsverden IK—but they were waiting for air tickets from the Football Association of Malawi (FAM).

If they beat Kenya, Malawi will face winners between Ghana and Gabon in the third-round of the qualifiers.

The Olympics are the significant event used for ranking teams and, if they qualify, the Malawi squad will make history as the first Malawi sports discipline to earn a slot through qualification.

At Cosafa, Malawi failed to progress to the semi-finals for the first time since 2011, but they appeared an improved side compared to their previous participation.

Malawi beat Madagascar 2-0 in their Group A opener and they lost 1-3 to defending champions, South Africa’s Banyana Banyana, who thrashed them 6-0 during last year’s event. Against Banyana Banyana, Malawi scored as early as in the fourth minute, through Asimenye Simwaka’s close-range strike and dominated play, especially in the first-half where they forced their hosts on the back foot, only to lose concentration in the dying minutes.

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