Malawi’s female soccer side has been drawn in Group A against tournament favourites Zimbabwe, two-time bronze medalists Zambia and debutants Madagascar.
The SheFlames kick-off their bid to win their first-ever COSAFAWomen’s Championship on Wednesday with a tough Group A fixture against Zambia’s Shepolopolo at the Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo at 2pm Central African Time;before taking on Madagascar on Friday.
The team will wrap-up its group stage action against defending champions and three-time hosts Zimbabwe on Monday afternoon.
Malawi’s coach Stewart Mbolembole assisted by legendary former women’s football prolific striker Maggie Chombo and Andrew Chikhosi a former Flames striker has not had the chance to play any international strength-testing match ahead of the tournament.
“We are satisfied with our preparations…we are going to COSAFA to compete,” Mbolembole told a Malawian newspaper.
Malawi’s 20-player squad has been bolstered by the inclusion of Austria-based defender ChisomoKazisonga and striker Tabitha Chawinga, who plays in Sweden. The side also has six players from the DD Sunshine Club, five from Chombo’s Blantyre Zero and four from Skippers FC.
According to COSAFA, the Zambians have brought a largely young side to the tournament.
The SheFlames’ first ever international match was played at the inaugural COSAFA Women’s Championships in 2002 where they were whooped 8-0 by hosts Zambia. Malawi, will therefore, be looking to avenge the humiliation suffered by their ‘fore’ sisters on their neighbours.
The twelve competing teams, including guests Kenya from East African, have been drawn into three groups in which they will battle it out for regional honours as they limber-up for the African Women’s Championship qualifiers scheduled to start early next year.
Group B has Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique and Swaziland while Group C will be a battle between South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana.
Malawi has been to the tournament twice in 2002 and in 2011 when they reached the semi-finals but lost to three-time champions South Africa 5-1.
The SheFlames went on to miss out on a bronze medal when they were defeated by East African guests Tanzania. The Malawi Women’s Soccer side like most teams in the region has been largely inactive since then. The COSAFA Women’s Championship has been held four times in 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2011.
Goalkeepers: Memory Gama (Skippers FC), Martha Banda (Blantyre Zero)
Defenders:ChisomoKazisonga (Altera Porta, Austria), Emily Jossam, Fatsireni Kazembe (both Skippers FC), Patricia Nyirenda (Ntopwa Super Queens), ChimwemweMadise, Ruth Nyirongo, WezzieMvula (all DD Sunshine)
Midfielders:MadidnaNguluwe, ElubyBottoman, Sabinnah Thom (all DD Sunshine), ChikondiGondwe (CY Sisters), PiliraniMalora, Lucy Chiumia (both Blantyre Zero), ShiraDimba (Skippers FC)
Strikers: Tabitha Chawinga (Knarsveden IK, Sweden), TemwaChawinga, Mary Chavinda (both Blantyre Zero), Rachael Mwale (Moyale Women’s FC).