Malawi’s hope of exporting players to European clubs will remain a pipedream unless the issue of footballers’ physique is addressed.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) technical director Benjamin Kumwenda and Flames coach Mario Marinica made the observation during the week in reaction to the fact that four of the five players that went to Europe in the past five years have had their contracts either terminated or not renewed upon expiry.
Peter Banda, Robin Ngalande, Yamikani Chester, Charles Petro and Francisco Madinga were signed by Europeans clubs but now only Petro remains.
Yet it is the country’s dream to have more players in European leagues, where they are exposed to quality football that can, in turn, help improve local football standards.
Said Kumwenda: “Of course, there are a number of factors that contribute to this setback, but the physical aspect of our players seems to be the biggest challenge.
Only player in Europe now: Petro
“The players we have are so talented. They easily adapt to technical, tactical, psychologically and social aspects of the game. However, European teams’ main focus on top of the above attributes is the physical aspect, which includes good height, proper body weight and strength. Most players we have are short and this is affecting us.”
He said this is the reason FAM is doing its best to develop a scouting system for export to Europe and having reliable football agents that can link such players to the clubs abroad.
Marinica agreed with Kumwenda that most Malawian players hardly integrate into the five pillars that European clubs look for.
“Malawi players need to be tough mentally, when they get an opportunity to play in Europe. They should not feel like they have made it but think of it as a stepping stone to a long-term successful career,” he said.
“They also need to look after themselves by enhancing their physical strength and fitness levels. It is also important to understand the clubs’ strategies and playing philosophies.”
Petro and Banda admitted that European clubs’ technical panels somehow undermine Malawian players’ physical appearance and that sporting and behavioural standards are set high, requiring them to maintain a high sense of purpose.
Petro, who stands at 1.76 metres and recently signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Romanian Liga 1 side FC Botosani, explained that his stature could be the reason his former club Sheriff’s new coach sidelined him during the club’s Uefa Champions League group matches last year.
“During my three-year stay at Sheriff, the club changed managers at least twice.
“I believe the new coach did not trust in my capabilities.
“It was this frustration that forced me to ask my agent to find me a new club.”
Banda and Madinga said their exits from European clubs were a result of unsatisfactory offers.
Said Banda: “At the time, I was not satisfied with the offer that my agent told me, so I decided to move on and join Simba in Tanzania. I know new opportunities will open for me in Europe but I am being patient.”
On his part, Madinga said: “I could not allow a new deal with Georgian club Dila Gori because they wanted to renew my contract without improving my package.”
Banda spent six months on loan at Moldovan champions Tiraspol Sherrif from FCB Nyasa Bullets but the Moldovan club did not activate a clause for permanent transfer before July 31 2021, prompting the blossoming Flames attacker to sign a three-year deal with Tanzania Premier League champions Simba Sports Club.
As for Mighty Mukuru Wanderers midfielder Ngalande, he signed a two-year contract with Azerbaijan club Zira FC in 2019 but his deal was terminated in January 2020 with the club stating that his release was on “mutual agreement”.
This was the second time the player did not stay long in Europe.
Previously, he played for Atletico Madrid youth team for two years after he impressed at Under-17 Africa Youth Championship in Algeria in 2010..
Twenty-eight-year-old Chester signed a three-year deal with Czech third-tier league side MFK Vyskov in 2019 before being loaned out to United States (US) club North Carolina FC.
He also played for another US side Las Vegas Lights before he agreed a mutual contract termination with Vyskov in 2021.
Petro is the only Malawian football export in Europe.
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