Malawi senior national football team coach Mario Marinica’s unveiling of his backroom team and provisional squad has been a pleasant interruption to the conventional order in the Flames business.
Marinica’s ascension to the Flames hot seat might have divided opinion but certainly, his latest squad release should unite opinion because for once his jazz of rebuilding seems to be making sense. Not full sense but sense nonetheless.
The man from Romanian is doing business unusual, breaking mental barriers that a coach from Ekwendeni United and a player for Rumphi United cannot and should not step any closer to the Flames.
You see, national football team coaches have, over the years, abused the word ‘rebuilding’ it has lost the meaningful meaning it is supposed to ideally convey.
Rebuilding has been used by the Flames coaches as a disclaimer in case results do not translate on the field of play.
The coaches do this in safe knowledge that usually such a process takes at least five years at bare minimum as it involves developing players up to maturity stage where winning can, then, be expected.
However, the notion of rebuilding becomes confusing when it is mentioned passionately as the senior national team.
What is the use of having under-17, under-20 and under-23 national teams if such platforms cannot develop players and even coaches?
In the Malawi scenario, we have seen supposedly under-17 players getting into polygamous marriages while other under-20 players have retired just when they are expected to progress to the senior team.
You do not earn seniority without having been a junior at some level elsewhere when you see teenagers Pedri doing a Xavi for Barcelona or Camavinga choking Manchester City out of the UEFA Champions League, it is because those are fully grown up professional players.
Seniority in football is not always measured by a player’s age but the number of games they have played and the stages gone through hence the likes of Pedri and Camavinga are senior players because they worked their way from the schools team, academy, under-23 then the senior team.
In Malawi case, Marinica is able to unearth a gem such as Lawrence Chaziya and Charles Thom and ensure they, at the same, deliver the goods for the Flames.
Now, Marinica has extended the rebuilding to the coaches and football analysts after having drafted in the Flames panel Enos Chatama and Peter Mgangira as intern coaches with Lawrence Waya in the set up as performance analyst understudy.
Chatama’s track-record in developing players such as Charles Petro and Chimwemwe Idana has been remarkable.
Mgangira too has been a coaching understudy at Silver Strikers and his inclusion in the Flames setup should be the inevitable step forward.
What is even more remarkable is that Marinica, reading between the lines, has gone for the brains and education in choosing the technical team.
The message is clear that football playing experience is important, but to make it in modern coaching, you need basic education background and skills to operate technology such as computers, write reports and analyse situations.
It, therefore, comes as no surprise that James Sangala, a graduate from Catholic University, has been appointed Technical Support Manager.
We all know that Sangala played football at the highest level for club and country in Malawi, South Africa and Angola and his mastery of Portuguese and articulation of football issues is amazing.
We also know, Sangala was previously pushed to the sidelines because he is not a gossiper and a bootlicker hence there are some within the corridors of Mpira House who felt threatened by this educated footballer.
The same goes for the often marginalized Waya who, apart from being a qualified coach and former FAM administrator, is also a qualified tax accountant and IT expert boasting tertially qualifications such as diplomas in IT.
We now have a goalkeeper trainer Victor Mphande a man whose name even most football followers must be hearing for the first time, for the simple reason that national team squad selection and coaching appointments have for a long time been the preserve of Nyasa Big Bullets, Mighty Wanderers and Silver Strikers people.
All this shows that Marinica has done his home work and he is appointing players and the coaches on merit.
However, I have reservations on the inclusion of recycled coach Franco Ndawa as an assistant coach because I don’t think he has anything new to offer to Malawi football if anything he should be heading for retirement.
Having said all the nice things about Marinica, word of caution is that all this shall pale into insignificance if the Flames do not make the trip to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Ivory Coast.
Anything less than AFCON qualification would vindicate those of us who are naturally inclined to believe that Marinica’s predecessor Meck Mwase delivered the goods and that he should have been treated better.
At this level of senior national football team results matter and the end justify the means.