You cannot call Peter Banda either shy or quiet. But for whatever reason, he is very anonymous in the Malawi under-20 national football team squad that is holed up in the copper-rich city of Kitwe, Zambia, for the Cosafa Youth Championship.
However, nobody carries the bigger load of responsibility on his tender shoulders than the Griffin Young Stars’ lad going into today’s Group A opener against Swaziland at Arthur Davies Stadium.
When the first whistle blows in the wet conditions of Kitwe, there would, certainly, be no hiding place for the boy, who, barely last week, top-scored to lead his Blantyre-based FMB Under-20 League club to the national championship with an astonishing haul of 34 goals in 30 games.
The junior Flames’ Team Manager and Young Stars Coach, Griffin Saenda Junior, in an interview from Edinburgh Hotel in Kitwe, said Malawi were not in Kitwe to marvel at copper but aim for gold.
“Peter is back with a bang,” Saenda said, then joked: “He has eyes on his feet.”
“Our target is to go all the way. To do that, the first game is always crucial. It will determine how we will proceed for the rest of the tournament. We will not leave any stone unturned going into the game against Swaziland.”
Before departure for Zambia, Malawi, who failed to win any match at a similar event last year, warmed up for the tournament by beating Be Forward Wanderers 4-1 and holding Nyasa Big Bullets to a 1-1 draw.
In the two preparatory matches, the likes of Banda, Patrick Phiri (Premier Bet Wizards) and Nyasa Big Bullets’ Mike Mkwate scored.
A lot is expected from this crop of players who have thrived in a 3-5-2 system, with Banda comfortable playing off the right wing, as the main man upfront or as an attacking midfielder.
Charles Thom of Dwangwa United should start between the sticks behind the defence of Hadji Wali, Charles Petro and Kondwani Mwaila with Mkwate, Precious Sambani, Levison Maganizo and Chimwemwe Idana pulling the strings in midfield.
Swaziland are, on paper, lightweights. They have never won the championship and have exited the competition in the first round for the past 11 tournaments.
The Swazis had, until last year when they beat Botswana, not won a match at the tournament.
Malawi’s next match is against hosts and defending champions Zambia on Friday before winding up their Group A assignments against Uganda on Monday.
Top teams from each of the three groups will qualify for the semi-finals alongside the best runner-up.
Some 12 teams, including guests Egypt and Uganda, are at the tournament whose record winners are the Zambians with 11 titles.
Group B has South Africa, Mozambique, Egypt and Mauritius while Group C is made up of Angola, Namibia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.