By Paul Alufandika
Upon failure at Euro 2000, the German Football Association (DFB) embarked on a mission to change the landscape of club football in Germany. This in turn affected the national team positively by giving a directive to football academies to produce players who were technically proficient than the ones previously produced.
For this to be achieved, there was an overhaul done at all levels from the youth football setup, the national team, and also the Bundesliga. This involved restructuring the coaching system which in turn brought in a new breed of players. It was decided that the development of more technically proficient homegrown players would be in everyone’s best interests, and this led to the creation of football academies across all divisions from the top tier league (Bundesliga) to the amateur divisions.
For all this to happen, there had to be a close relationship between the German national team and Bundesliga clubs, which enabled the enforcing of the player development plan easier. For the DFB, after failure at Euro 2000, there was a need to change philosophies football-wise as well as upgrading facilities involving football such as training grounds. Coaches were encouraged to focus on fluid formations that required nimble but technically proficient players who were previously overlooked because of their lack of physique.
Looking at the German model to revamp their football, the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) can adopt a similar approach albeit with lesser resources personnel-wise and financially. In the past, we had a lot of talented individuals who could not deliver when it matters due to factors like mentality, coaching, and physique (one of the reasons we struggle against West African teams).
These are important when it comes to African football otherwise you have to be exceptionally talented to excel at the highest level just like what Gabadinho Mhango has done for the Flames and also for his South African club Orlando Pirates. When teams visit the Soccer Mecca, Kamuzu Stadium, that’s when we realize we have a serious height deficiency among our ranks and we still end up playing long balls that don’t suit our heights and physique.
The coaching staff is better off playing to what suits us better than play a game that suits our enemy such as long balls as evident currently by our lack of pace on the flanks and a target man to initiate hold up play once those long balls are played in the channels. This long ball game suited us when we had the lanky Russell Mwafulirwa and the physical Esau Kanyenda leading our front line.
Emphasis plus a directive could be given to football authorities and coaches by FAM in conjunction with local clubs to produce players who play a particular brand of football just like the German FA did in 2000. This would help revamp our football and make it more competitive on the international scene and enable us to go toe to toe with giants of football in Africa such as Cameroon, Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria.
The closest the flames got to be competitive on the international scene was when Kinnah Phiri was at the helm, and the pinnacle was qualifying for the AFCON edition of 2010, albeit with the help of the Ivory Coast defeating those who challenged us for the runner up slot.
We go to Europe and pinpoint Spain as the perfect example as a team that dominated Europe from 2008 to at least 2013. What made these predominantly short players dominate Europe and eventually world football? A plan was put in place as early as 1992 to focus on bringing players together from the grassroots to the top tier leagues – this method was simple but very effective. Anyone who has played football can agree that they play better if they have played for a long time with their teammates. David De Gea, Thiago Alcantara, and Isco are among those who played together in the Spanish under 21 team first then developed into the world-class players we all know.
All in all, if a different approach was to be taken that works to our strengths, the landscape of our football can be changed. It all comes down to coaching and nurturing the right breed of the next generation to carry our national team forward. Spain was the laughing stock of Europe not so long ago, only to dominate Europe after a serious change in football philosophy working to their strengths.
About the author: Paul Alufandika is a professionally trained marketer and doubles as a tech-savvy entrepreneur. His writings specialize in sports and the environment.
E-mail – Paulalufandika@gmail.com