There is fresh debate on how careers of Malawi Defence Force (MDF) footballers continue to be compromised by their core army duties such as peacekeeping mission.
As usual, the 2018 TNM Super League kicks off next month minus some MDF players, such as Chikoti Chirwa, who were outstanding for club and country last season.
For the Flames, the absence of Chirwa is a big blow. He played in each and every game since Ronny van
Geneugden took over the reigns last April. Now, the coach has to look for plan B for a holding midfielder.
Chirwa, like other players before him, is unlikely to comeback from the army assignment in the form that he was in last season.
The same was the case with Mafco FC’s prolific striker Kalisto Kalinda. His name is slowly being forgotten on the football front after turning himself into a household name back in 2013.
Kalinda took the Super League by storm with his amazing speed and goal-scoring prowess, which reached its climax in 2015 when he finished as the Super League’s second top goal-scorer, before flying out to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on peacekeeping mission.
Since his return last year, Kalinda has struggled to regain form. The pace and energy have suddenly disappeared, little wonder he managed five goals in 16 appearances last season.
Kalinda is a good example of how peacekeeping assignments, which offer hefty allowances to footballers, continue to rob MDF teams of talent.
Kalinda, who admitted that the DRC mission has affected his career, said players themselves have to engage in physical training to keep in shape.
“First, you have to realise that you are a footballer who should not stay idle for too long. You have to participate in social football, which is available in the DRC and do physical training to keep in shape. With hardwork, within a short period of time you can regain your form,” Kalinda said.
It is doubtful if Kalinda, while in the DRC, did what he is preaching. A question would be whether MDF players should be exempted from such missions in order to concentrate on their careers?
“No, not at all,” Moyale Barracks and former Flames forward, Gastin Simkonda, said. “We are soldiers first before becoming footballers. The problem is that we stay idle for so long so it becomes difficult for one to recollect yourself and return to top form when you are back.”
Simkonda, who left the country for the DRC after claiming the Golden Boot award in 2015, missed the 2016 season and, subsequently, lost form before a car accident further affected his career.
Kamuzu Barracks’ Dave Banda, Harvey Nkacha, Kelvin Hanganda and Osward Nkagula of Mafco are other notable examples of how peacekeeping missions continue to undermine the progress of MDF players.
Soccer analyst Peterkins Kayira believes exempting the players from DRC trips cannot be the solution.
“Coaches should work on players who have not kicked organised football for some time. Football in Malawi is not a full-time job and we should not forget that for these soldiers, football is their extracurricular activity,” Kayira said.