Malawi national football team (Flames) preparations for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers have suffered a setback following revelation that foreign-based players will not travel to China for a three-week camp in April.
Malawi Government and FAM confirmed on day that the Flames will travel to China in the second week of April and return on April 27.
The trip is aimed at preparing the team for the crucial World Cup qualifying games against Kenya and Nigeria in the first and second weeks of June respectively.
The camp dates fall outside the Fifa calendar; hence, FAM will not be able to take on board foreign-based players who form the bulk of the Flames.
FAM chief executive officer Suzgo Nyirenda said only local players will make the trip.
“There was a proposal to send the team in May after the end of the South African league or now when it is on break. That has not worked and we will go in April. It will not be possible to get any foreign-based player unless those whose leagues will be off-season, which is not possible for any of our foreign players,” said Nyirenda.
From the local squad likely to travel to China only Frank Banda of Silver Strikers is a regular, which puts a question to the impact of the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s preparations for the World Cup games.
The Flames have 14 regular players in the South African league and one each in Angola, Mozambique, Spain and Vietnam. Two are set to join Thai teams, meaning all the players will be busy at their clubs in April.
Flames coach Kinnah Phiri said the development is a setback because having a full squad would have given him a chance to assess his team which is yet to play together since failing to qualify for the Nations Cup following the 2-2 draw against Chad last October.
“FAM has been struggling to raise funds for us to play a friendly game and it is unlikely that we will play a game before the World Cup qualifiers which start in June.
“This was the only opportunity for us to be together in an intensive camping and play test matches with the full squad,” said Kinnah.
Kinnah, however, said this is chance to expose the locals so that they can be in shape to challenge the foreign-based players for a place in the team.
“In fact, most foreign-based players are not playing for their clubs and it is time for the locals to prove their worth. We once went to Denmark with local players only. When we came back, the likes of Harry Nyirenda, Simplex Nthala, Dave Banda and Victor Nyirenda won positions in the Flames,” said Kinnah.
Flames captain Peter Mponda said the foreign camp would have been more productive if the full squad travelled.
“A three-week camp as a whole squad in top class facilities would have meant a lot in building team confidence after the disappointing 2012 Afcon campaign,” he said.
According to Sports Minister Symon Vuwa-Kawunda the team will play friendly games with top Chinese clubs and the Chinese national team.
Added Vuwa-Kaunda: “The Chinese Embassy is yet to communicate the names of clubs we will play, but they have confirmed about their national team and the dates.”
The local squad went into camp on Monday in preparation for this monthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s away game to Chad in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Kinnah had tried to bring the China trip earlier to prepare for the Chad game, but it did not work.