Malawi National Team – The Flames – has disclosed that it is set to play an international friendly match against Bangladesh’s Bengal Tigers on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) Competitions and Communications Director, Gomezgani Zakazaka, said despite encountering a delay due to visa issues, the team has now left for the Middle East country.
However, the Malawi squad has left behind Blessings Mpokela, Alick Lungu, assistant coach Franco Ndawa, and goalkeeper trainer Victor Mphande, whose visas are yet to be granted.
Zakazaka admitted that the delay had disrupted the team’s program, but he confirmed that the international friendly against Bangladesh is still on.
“They were supposed to play against a Saudi Arabian club today; on Wednesday against Bangladesh, then Saturday against a Libyan club. But following the delay, the program has to be rescheduled. However, the match against Bangladesh on Wednesday, which is a Fifa date, is confirmed,” said Zakazaka.
The 25-member squad was expected to camp in Saudi Arabia for two weeks to prepare for the back-to-back 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against Egypt on March 24 and 28.
However, due to the delay, the camp will now be for about seven days, and the team will depart for Egypt on March 20.
The squad comprises 22 TNM Super League players and three foreign-based players: Francisco Madinga (Galaxy FC, Botswana), John CJ Banda (UD Songo, Mozambique), and Kieran Ngwenya (Aberdeen, Scotland). Madinga and John Banda will join the team on Monday, while Ngwenya will fly directly to Saudi Arabia.
Flames head coach Mario Marinica said the international friendly match against Bangladesh is critical in keeping the players in shape after a long break.
“Like the Lesotho game, this is an important part of the preparation to get players to compensate for their lack of match fitness resulting from clubs’ inactivity, as well as to gel the team and work on our game plan,” said Marinica.
Bangladesh, coached by Spanish Javier Fernández Cabrera, is ranked 192, while the Flames are ranked 124. The upcoming friendly will be Bangladesh’s first match this year.
Last year, the Bengal Tigers failed to win a single game as they lost to Maldives, Cambodia, Nepal, Bahrain, Turkmenistan, and Malaysia, and drew against Mongolia and Indonesia.