The call for clarity

So we made it to the next round of the 2013 African Nations Cup qualifying campaign after all! And what difference results can make! From the mood of anger and unease ahead of the home encounter against Chad, the Flames made the whole nation excited after registering a deserved 2-0 victory. From paying for his blood the previous week, national coach Kinnah Phiri became the hero he was once known to be.

Apart from obvious joy that the team has progressed, I was also happy for Kinnah because as he admitted elsewhere, he was under pressure following the string of unimpressive results over the last year or so. What happened at Kamuzu Stadium just confirmed what has been said many times before that football is a results business and football teams must do their talking on the pitch.

You would expect a man of Kinnah’s calibre, having been in the business for anything around four decades, to know that fans will praise you to the sky if you do well and crucify you if you do not deliver to their expectations. The criticism may sometimes be unfair given the emotions that are involved and it is the mark of great coaches to have a thick skin in times of adversity.

It was, therefore, very unfortunate that the national coach only has the capacity to take in praises, but is not prepared to be held responsible for below-average performances. Some of the things he said in reaction to the stinging criticism after the dramatic one-all draw against Nigeria were too petty for a man of his standing. There was, for example, no need to refer to his wealth because no one really cares about that.

So, as I congratulate him on earning himself a new contract as revealed by Sports Minister Enoch Chihana last weekend, I would want to advise him to refrain from taking things too personal. He should always expect criticism when his boys fail to deliver and not everyone who questions his ways is after his job. Most critics love their team even where they say things that may not make sense.

Talk of Chihana, it is not difficult to notice that the new minister has taken to his job with a lot of enthusiasm and that is what you need all the time. In his short time as minister, he has made many interesting and landmark announcements, including the one to provide all national players with Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) houses to ensure that they have decent accommodation.

This, it must be acknowledged, is an exciting announcement. What was not clear to me was whether this is merely his idea or government policy and the stories I have read or listened to have not been clear on this. Does MHC have these houses? Where are they? With frequent changes to the composition of the team, which players qualify for this? Will they live in the houses forever?

I remember hearing the minister say government would help pay rental for the houses in the early months. What if the player fails to pay thereafter? The allowances some of the players get at their clubs as revealed in the media are so low that some of them may fail to sustain payment of the rental. You may think of raising allowances for national team duty, but how many times in the year do they play for the national side?

Questions abound but the long and short of it is that there is a lot that needs to be ironed out. I think the process of improving the welfare of our players needs much more thought than just giving them good houses.

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