The TNM Super League has older players compared to some national leagues in the Cosafa bloc, a development experts say is contributing to dwindling football standards in the country.
A survey we have done has revealed that the official TNM Super League database has 483 registered players of whom, Civil Service (Civo) United’s Innocent Tanganyika, 41, is the oldest while Blue Eagles’ Andrew Juvinala, 17, is the youngest.
Sixty percent of the players are aged between 30 and 41 while 20 percent are aged between 25 and 29. The other 20 percent are below 23 years of age. The average age is at 36.
Neighbours Zambia’s Super League average age is 30; the oldest is former Chipolopolo star James Chamanga at 42 while Nkana’s Amon Chili is the youngest at 17, according to transfermarket.co.uk, a database of all players across the world.
South Africa’s Premier Soccer League has an average age of 27, with the oldest player Elias Pelembe, aged 39 while Cape Town City’s 17-year-old Luphumlo Sifumba is the youngest.
Zimbabwe’s 20-year-old Dynamos’ Bill Antonio is the youngest while 46-year-old Innocent Benza of Herentials is the oldest in the Castle Lager Super League which has an average age of 32.
Performance analysts point out that a player is at his peak between the ages 22 and 27 and is in the twilight after 30.
According to Researchgate.com, there is a clear loss of physical performance in players over 30 years.
Their recent findings on the relationship between age performance reads: “After analysing 10 739 players from the Spanish La Liga during the 2017-2018 season, researchers discovered that the total distance covered by players over 30 is five percent lower than that covered by younger players. The loss of performance is especially drastic in those over 35.
“This trend was noted across all positions, even though players on the wings [wing backs and wingers] appear to experience a lower loss of performance level. This evolution of performance has also been observed in players taking part in the German Bundesliga and Premiership.”
In the TNM Super League, Malawi Defence Force teams have most of 100 old players.
Mafco lead the list with 27 out of 30 players. Ten out of the 27, who are also in their first XI, are aged above 33 years.
The Salima-based soldiers have two Under-23 players in Levison Singano and Orton Jere.
Kamuzu Barracks (KB) are second with 24 of their players making the top 100 list.
They have three Under-23 players—Emmanuel Mitole, Joshua Wako and Hastings Katoma Banda.
Moyale Barracks are third with 21 players in the bracket while two players in Maneno Nyoni and Lucky Mdezo are under-24.
Red Lions have 16 players while Brown Gondwe, Kaliwo Harawa and Prince Saka are under-23.
Malawi Police Service (MPS) side, Blue Eagles, have 20 in the top 100 oldest players and three under-23 players in Chikondi Mvula, Arthur Moffat, and Juvinala.
Football marketing consultant and player manager Felix Ngamanya Sapao observed that this has affected the performance of these teams.
He said: “Players’ performances in Malawi are looked at by the eye instead of statistics and not using technology, like video analysis. We are still using what eyes only see. We do not look at things like the distance a player covers in a full match. The older you get, the less you cover.”
Among civilian teams, Civo have 15 players on the list.
Shukran Mwawa, Muhammad Bison, Lloyd Aaron and Richard Mwaila are the only Under-23s in the squad.
Silver Strikers are second with 12 players on the list. The Bankers, however, have five players Charles Thom, Chikondi Kamanga, Stenie Davie, Duncan Nyoni and Levison Maganizo in the Under-23 category.
Mighty Mukuru Wanderers have 11 on the list, but Adeleke Kalawole, Brown Mzumara Gondwe, Joseph Balakasi, Aubrey Maloya, Wisdom Mpinganjira and Ephraim Kondowe are in the Under-23 category.
TNM Super League champions Nyasa Big Bullets have nine players in the top 100.
However, the People’s Team have 14 Under-23 players, including Thomson Magombo, Anthony Mfune, Mphatso Magaleta, Blessings Mpokera, Alick Lungu, Patrick Mwaungulu, Kesten Simbi and Stanley Billiat.
This makes Bullets the team with the youngest squad in the top-flight league with an average age of 25.
Sapao said Bullets’ philosophy of a fast-paced style does not suit old players.
He said: “Bullets coach Kalisto Pasuwa likes a fast-paced passing game in attack. And that needs players who can run throughout the game.
“That needs young players. You have less passes in your half and increase the pace in the opposing half. That’s the modern game.”
Soccer analyst Patrick Zgambo said the issue of players performance in relationship with age in Malawi is further complicated since even the official players’ ages are not verifiable.
“I think the average of 36 in reality is higher than that because of our unreliable records. But even this is a clear indication that geriatrics are taking too long before being eased out of the conveyer belt or not many youngsters are not being blended in quickly. The latter is far more tragic than the former.”
This, according to Zgambo, has a domino effect on the national team since the Flames coach has a pool of old players to pick his team from.