Malawi beach soccer national team yesterday made history by qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Beach Soccer on away goal rule against Tanzania.
After winning the first leg of the final qualifier 3-2 at home, Malawi lost the return leg 6-5 yesterday at Coco Beach in Dar es Salaam to tie eight-all on aggregate, but the five away goals punched them a ticket to the finals to be hosted by Mozambique from October 21 to 30.
Ahead of yesterday’s showdown, Malawi coach Willie Kumilambe declared that his charges would punch above their weight to earn a result that would take them to the promised land and they did.
Just like that, it was done and delivered.
It took just four minutes for Malawi to draw first blood through Isaac Kajamu.
But the hosts, buoyed by home-ground advantage were 2-1 up in under 10 minutes through goals from Stephani Mapunda and Yahya Tumbo in the seventh and eighth minute, respectively.
Tanzania weren’t done yet.
Jaruph Juma netted the third in the 14th munute before Yahya claimed a brace four minutes later and, for a while, it looked as if it was over for Malawi.
But Martin Billiat reduced the deficit for Malawi before Juma struck the fifth for Tanzania.
Captain Sandram Sadi led by example, urging his troops not to give up and with sheer bloodymindedness, they fought back.
Saddi scored twice in the 27th and 28th minutes, but Tanzania made it 6-4 through Eric Manyama before Saddi claimed a hat-trick in the 36th minute which proved vital.
And it was game over!
In a post-match interview, Saddi said they were excited to qualify for the finals.
He said: “We knew that the return leg would be tough, but we planned well for them.
“Even when we were 4-1 down, we did not give up hope, but fought on to the last whistle.”
On his part, Kumilambe said: “This is one of the happiest days of my life. The plan was to score first so as to unsettle them, but then they recovered with two quick goals which somehow created panic among my players.
“But I urged them to fight on and in the end we got the result despite the loss.”
Football Association of Malawi president Walter Nyamilandu said: “Historic qualification. It has been a long wait for glory.
“Extremely happy that our efforts have not been in vain after 15 years of running beach soccer.”