Forcing Patrick Mwaungulu on Flames coaches smacks of football illiteracy


Two years ago, striker Maxwell Gasten Phodo took the TNM Super League by storm after scoring some goals for Silver Strikers. It must have been his debut season or his second season in the top-flight league.

The then senior national team coach Meck Mwase, who obviously played football at the highest level, ignored Phodo when naming the Flames line-up for a trip to Tanzania for a warm up.

The arm-chair critics, as expected, took to the airwaves and backpages to make their loud noises exposing their football illiteracy fortunately to an equally illiterate audience football wise.

Mwase was not going to stand his ground and argue his case he, in the subsequent selection for the Cosafa Cup, drafted in Phodo in the squad.

In the few minutes he played for the Flames, Phodo barely touched the ball. It was difficult imagining a Super League leading scorer was on the pitch during the tournament held in South Africa.

When Phodo returned from the Cosafa Cup, he struggled to rediscover himself and his scoring boots. As I am talking, he is not even among Silver starters.

The football analysts, who are never chosen after some systematic process, had their way but with what result? It was clear Phodo was young and inexperienced and unready for such a big stage.

A proper football analyst should know that national team business is a combination of mental, physical and technical readiness. It is not enough to score goals for your club, you must be consistent, strong physically to be able to fight, including defending and being experienced.

Mark my word, I did not say you must be of a certain age but experienced so Real Madrid’s midfield gem Camavinga is young aged 19 but in terms of experience, he is very experienced because he received sufficient football education right from the age of nine.

Now, the same noise makers we call analysts for the simple reason that they kicked some balls somewhere, have had their way on Nyasa Big Bullets exciting prospect Patrick Mwaungulu.

The analysts, dangerous football callboys we mistake for commentators (most of them) and our footy journos have succeeded in having Flames coach Mario Marinica call up Mwaungulu.

But what exceptional thing has Mwaungulu done? Scoring and providing assists in the uncompetitive Super League against Mighty Tigers?

Elsewhere, players picked for senior national team business are those with proven pedigree in continental competitions such as the Champions League and Confederation Cup.

It is a fact that Mwaungulu is talented (of course in Malawi sense of dribbling and dancing with the ball) but demanding his inclusion in the Flames before he even makes his mark in the under-20 and under-23 national teams, if at all they exist, is dangerous.

Mwaungulu has been earning rare reviews following his red-hot offerings for Bullets who are on their way to a record extending fourth consecutive title without breaking sweat in this uncompetitive Super League.

I could be the only one not excited with Mwaungulu for the sole reason that I don’t see any future in him beyond the overrated Super League, the DStv Premiership and the Flames.

I am not excited because I have seen this movie before in the form of Chikondi Banda, Andrew Chikhosi, James Chimera, Mike Mkwate, Andrew Chikhosi, Muzipase Mwangonde, Bob and Albert Mpinganjira and Ganizani Malunga.  Talented players who were not athletes.

Do you remember how far these pocked sized predators went with their careers? Yes, the Super League and in Africa. Compare and contrast. Do we have an idea why Russel Mwafulirwa, with his poor ball control, ended up playing in Europe successfully?

Malawi will always have the small fast, tricky players adept at running, dribbling, crossing and scoring—that is not new.

If we want our players to be competitive on the international stage, let us not only focus on our strength but groom big and strong athletes with technical ability to compete on the international stage and sell to big clubs.

Zambia are doing the same with Enock Mwepu, Fashion Sakala and Patson Daka who, when compared to Malawian players, look ordinary but the Zambians are technically miles ahead.

The likes of Mwaungulu, Mkwate, Chimwemwe Idana and Peter Banda are extremely talented but do we understand why they are still playing in Malawi/Africa?

I can see some are already bringing into the equation small frames such as Andres Iniesta, Sadio Mane, Lionel Messi. Cheap comparison of mangoes with apples.

Mane is not big but the guy is an athlete—he can outjump Vijl van Dijk, shield the ball, outrun opponents and has terrific speed.

But what we have in Malawi are extremely talented players who are not athletes; hence not competitive on the international market.

A good example of an athlete is Gabadinho Mhango: he is short but look at how big his legs and arms are, his shot, pace, agility, tackles. And of course, goals and assists.  

Gabadinho would not have been playing anywhere outside Malawi if his strength was just scoring and dribbling.  

Do you remember that AmaZulu, Free State Stars and even Bloemfontein Celtic (at first) rejected Gabadinho?

If you are physically disadvantaged, you must be very exceptional to play international football at the highest level.

In modern football, even strikers are asked to defend. This is basic football knowledge sports reporters, football callboys and analysts ought to have. But then this is Malawi football, anything goes.