Malawi will be breaking new ground with their participation in the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup, giving the central African country a first chance to shine on the international stage. Malawian football has always been full of potential but lack of resources has hindered the country from pushing forward. But over the last decade they have proven their ability to compete with Africa's elite at junior level and qualified for past African youth and junior championships, culminating now in their first trip to a FIFA tournament.
Malawi's qualification for the FIFA U-17 World Cup came despite their elimination after the opening round of the March's CAF U-17 Championship in Algeria. Malawi had qualified for the eight-team tournament after an impressive sweep of their opponents in the preliminary round where they won five of their six matches, eliminating Mozambique, South Africa and then Namibia, who they beat 7-1 in the second leg of their final qualifying match to book a trip to Algeria.
But at the continental championships, the Young Flames found the going tough and lost their opening two matches to Burkina Faso and Niger, leaving Malawi and Zimbabwe to play a consolation match in their final group game. Or so they thought. As Malawi went on the rampage and defeated Zimbabwe 5-1, the Confederation of African Football expelled Niger for using overage players and Malawi were able to sneak into the fourth qualifying spot for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Malawi coach John Kaputa brings years of experience to the job. He has served as both coach and team manager of Malawi's senior national side and for more than a decade travelled widely in Africa with the country's various teams, both at senior and junior competitions. At his side is Jack Chamangwana, arguably the country's finest footballer, who is also a former national team coach and captain. It has been Chamangwana's task over the last months to seek out more talent to beef up the squad before the trip to
He has travelled across Malawi in a national talent identification programme, seeking out additional stars who can challenge for places in the squad. Malawi had hoped for an opportunity to travel to Germany for a training camp but have not been able to raise the funds. But Kaputa has kept his young charges busy in various training camps seeking to ensure that the Flames make a good impression when they take on the best developing footballers in the world.
Facts and figures
Victor Nangwale (forward), Kondwani Lufeyo (defender)
The numbers game
16 - the number of goals Malawi scored in six preliminary matches in qualify for the CAF U-17 Championship.