Malawi national football team bowed out of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers against less fancied Madagascar by losing 2-0 on goal aggregate (1-0 both away and at home). It was a very disappointing result losing to such a team that we all expected to be a walkover.
But as we all say, there are no walkovers in African football in these times. Even the giants such as Cameroon, Morocco, Cote d'Ivoire, South African, Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia and others do struggle against the once so-called minnows.
It's all because these so-called minnows are investing a lot in their domestic football whose benefits filter on to their national teams.
Many Malawian knew less of the Comoros Island and its football prowess. According to Wikipedia, the Comoros are an archipelago of volcanic islands situated off the south east coast of Africa -- to the east of Mozambique and north-west of Madagascar.
It has a population of less than a million people (984,500 according to Wikipedia).
Its football team's Fifa ranking is 144 and their first international was in 1979 when they lost 0-3 to Maritius. Their biggest win was 4-2 against fellow minnows Djibouti in December 2016 while their biggest losses were three -- 1-6 against Mauritius in 1979, 0-5 against Madagascar in 1993 and 0-5 again against Mauritius in 2003.
It joined the Confederation of African Football (Caf) in 2003 and got affiliated with Fifa in 2005. At the highest level of domestic football, they only have two competitions -- the Comoros Premier League and the Comoros Cup. Their most successful team is the Coin Nord, which won their domestic league title on six occasions.
Comparatively, Malawian football is supposed to be much superior to that of Comoros if we have to take our past history in context. The Flames were once a powerhouse that was well respected throughout the continent even though we only managed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations twice (in 1984 and 2010).
However, our past prowess was gauged mostly through the East and Central Africa Senior Challenge as well as its club championship.
Even in our regional grouping, the Confederation of Southern African Football Association (Cosafa), we have managed to win some respect, though of late we are way behind.
Now, beating the Comoros just 1-0 at our own home turf is a worrying factor knowing just how bad we are as travellers. I am not a prophet of doom but I expect the Comoros are happy with the result and they have gone back to prepare for the second leg at their home turf.
This result was pathetic even though it gives our new coach RVG the relief of having won his first game in charge of the perennial underachievers, the Flames.
It's not like we don't have talented players but it's our football system that lets us down. We used to have excellent infrastructure but most of them are in dilapidated state because of lack of proper maintenance.
Teams play on very bad pitches and fraud at gate fee collection is rampant that could have been used to maintain the infrastructure.
Imagine, the top flight football league, the TNM Super League, was on the season's break for over four months but as it approached the day for kick off the major national Kamuzu Stadium was declared unfit. It was only after the declaration that no match shall be played there that the government woke up from their slumber.
There was panic that Kamuzu Stadium won't host matches. The stadium is over used because most team use it as their home ground. It's pathetic really that after 50 years of independence, most teams don't have their own stadia.
Kamuzu Stadium was supposed to be a special venue just like it is with Wembley in England. Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe has taken over Kamuzu Stadium and from the way I see it, it is supposed to host national cup finals and the Flames' international matches -- not league games week in week out.
This is where we destroy our good structures because of overuse and in turn the football standards go down that translate into our dear national team's poor performance at international level.
I am not a prophet of doom like I have said, but I don't expect any relief when the Flames shall travel to Casablanca in March next year to meet Morocco in the next group qualifier of the 2019 Nations Cup.
We are very bad in away games especially those in north Africa and Cameroon are waiting having lost 0-1 to Cameroon last weekend in the
Sigh, I have to be patriotic and wish the team well like I always do. Good luck Mr. RVG.