Malawi is one of seven Council for Southern Africa Football Associations members that have played in every COSAFA Cup since the competition was introduced in 1997
The other countries to have participated in all 18 editions of the tournament are Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Flames were among the eight teams that participated in the inaugural tournament in 1997 and will also be going to South Africa this month for the 19thedition from the May 27 to June 9.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) General Secretary Alfred Gunda said the COSAFA Cup has always been an important tournament for Malawi.
“Since 1997, the COSAFA Cup has helped to expose our players. For us it is a tournament that we cannot afford to miss at all cost. That is why we always ensure that we participate in the competition,” said Gunda.
The COSAFA Cup has been a springboard for industrious careers of numerous Malawi stars.
Kaizer Chiefs caretaker coach Patrick Mabedi was spotted at COSAFA Cup and went to play for Amakhosi for eight seasons.
Jomo Sono spotted Esau Kanyenda at the tournament and the striker went on to play in Russia after two seasons with Jomo Cosmos.
Peter Mponda and Fisher Kondowe were also both signed by Black Leopards after their outstanding performance at the COSAFA Cup.
Mponda, who is now Malawi assistant coach to Belgian Ron Van Geneugden, said he owed his career to the COSAFA Cup.
“If it was not for COSAFA Cup, I would not be where I am today,” he said. “This is what I tell up-and-coming players.”
This year, for the first time all 14 COSAFA members will participate in the tournament as it clocks 21 years.
Eight teams pooled in two groups of four, will battle it out in the preliminary group stages.
Malawi is in Group B alongside Botswana, Mauritius and Angola.
Group A has Madagascar, Comoros, Mozambique and Seychelles.
Two group winners will join the other six seeded teams Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland in the quarter-finals.
The Flames are yet to win the competition, but they were twice runners-up back-to-back after losing in the final to South Africa in 2002 and Zimbabwe in 2003.
In 2015, they won the Plate Section, a side tournament for the four teams eliminated in the main competition’s quarter–finals.
In total, Malawi have played 43 COSAFA Cup matches, winning 12, drawing 12 and losing 19 times.
They have scored 40 goals and conceded 54 goals.