Sir Alex Ferguson will say 7 years. After being appointed Manchester United manager in 1986, he fought relegation and only delivered the league in 1993.
Cameroon will probably tell you it can take 3 years. Huge Broos’ of Cameroon oversaw a revolution after eight of its star players, plying their trade in European leagues, refused a call up to the squad, eventually forcing the Belgian to call a very youthful squad for the just ended African Cup of Nations (Afcon) and to the surprise of many, the Indomitable Lions defied the odds to clinch Africa’s greatest prize after beating Egypt 2-1 in Gabon last night.
For the past years, soccer loving Malawians have been told to wait a little bit longer for the Malawi National Football team to start delivering saying the team is in a rebuilding exercise.
The question is, how long does it take to build a team? At the just ended Afcon, teams such as Mali, Senegal, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso used very youthful squads, young and energetic boys who, despite not all winning the trophy, looked hungry for success.
But that’s not the case with our beloved national team. Year in, year out, same old story keeps ringing in our ears, begging us to remain patient.
But for how long are we going to keep on waiting in vain for a better result yet signs of improvement are not there?
Coaches, both local and foreign, have come and gone but nothing has changed, who is to blame? What can be done in order to complete this ‘never ending rebuilding exercise’?
Under normal circumstance, a country’s Football Association ensures the completion of any rebuilding exercise by putting in place structures that will make the dream a reality.
But do we have structures in Malawi? Normally, other associations focus much on developing talent through the junior teams.
In Malawi, the majority of players that represented the country in Algeria at FIFA under 20 World Cup in 2009 are nowhere to be seen yet the likes of Brazilian Neymar, Spanish duo of Isco, Tiago Alcantara, Mario Gotze of Germany, Eden Hazard of Belgium just to mention a few, are representing their countries at international tournaments.
We cannot be building forever. There has be time when you need to put the rebuilding tools down and appreciate what you have produced. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with our team. Year in, year out, when a new coach comes in, he is allowed to start all over again instead of just working on his predecessors’ shortfalls.
For example, when Ernest Mtawali took over from Young Chimodzi, he completely disbanded the team as he opted for a youthful side. However, when the results were not going his way, Malawians, including Football Association of Malawi (FAM) started murmuring and just like other coaches, he got fired.
Mtawali’s project was fine and if he had been given opportunity to continue, we would have been assured of a strong team in the next three years but Malawians wanted imminent results forgetting that Flames had over ageing players that needed proper replacements.
The Cameroonian side that has won Afcon on Sunday has an average age of 24 but in Malawi, for one to play for a national team, he must be more than 30. Rome wasn’t built for a day but if we continue doing things this way, we will keep on building this team forever.
Time has come to focus on developing talent. It can take years but one day, we will harvest what we have been planting.
Let’s keep the under 23 that played a friendly game against the Chinese club last month, send them to Cosafa or Cecafa tournaments and let them play in CHAN competition. Let us not focus on qualifying for 2019 Afcon but our focus should be qualifying for 2021 tournament as well as making it to Qatar in 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Failing to do this, our team will never make it. Let’s learn from our fellows, building a team is a risk worth taking, look at Cameroon, Senegal, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Ghana and many more teams, they have a future because they took a risk of nurturing talent from youthful teams from the structures put in place.
Invest in youth structures, involve primary and secondary schools in this project and by the end of the next five years, the rebuilding exercise will surely be over.