After clobbering Zimbabwe in Lilongwe (2-0) and in Harare (2-0) on 12 September 1982 and 3 October 1982 respectively in the preliminary round and upon the withdrawal from the 1st round by Zaire, the Malawi National Soccer Team (Flames) was left with two (home and away) fixtures to fulfill for the 2nd round against Madagascar in the campaign trail to the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament which was hosted by Ivory Coast in March 1984.
The first leg was played in Madagascar’s capital of Antananarivo on 14 August 1983. The Flames won 1-0 through a free kick by defender Reuben Malola. The Madagascar fans knowing that the chances for their national team to sail through to the 1984 AFCON tournament were slim having failed to get a point from the Flames at home, they run amok against the Flames immediately when the referee blew the final whistle to mark the end of the match.
Amidst the mayhem, the Flames players and officials were whisked out of the stadium to their hotel where they immediately picked up their belongings and proceeded straight to the airport for an evening flight to Nairobi from where they would connect to Malawi.
In an interview with Lost History Foundation (LHF) in June 2020, former Flames’ midfielder Peterkins Kayira said:
“…It were scary scenes in Antananarivo. After we hammered them at their own backyard, the fans resorted to violence against us. We left the stadium using a bus in which some of us were literally lying down and on the seats while the fans were throwing all sorts of objects on us like bottles, cans and stones. Luckily enough, we successfully escaped to the hotel and there were no serious injuries among us.”
The return match was played on 28 August 1983 in Blantyre which ended in a 1-1 draw. Stock Dandize scored the equiliser for the Flames which was all that the Flames needed to qualify for the first time to the AFCON tournament.
At the 1984 AFCON in March 1984, in the city of Bouake the Flames lost against Algeria (0-3) and Ghana (0-1) in their first and third matches respectively. They drew against Nigeria (2-2) in the second match during which Flames’ legend Clifton Msiya brilliantly netted a goal by dribbling a number of Nigeria’s players all the way from the middle of the pitch and finally beat the Nigeria goal-keeper to score.
This became the goal of the tournament and remains among the finest goals ever scored at the AFCON tournament. In a similar fashion, Diego Maradona would later score what is famously called the ‘goal of the century’ for Argentina against England during a quarter-final match at the 1986 World cup tournament in Mexico.
With only 1 point, the Flames were booted out of the 1984 AFCON tournament. At this time Enerst Mtawali who featured in the qualifiers against Madagascar in August 1983, had left for South Africa to play for Bloemfontein Celtic and later Sundowns hence getting banned from the Flames until 10 years later when he returned into the Flames squad for a friendly match against Swaziland in Blantyre on 6th July 1993. The Flames won 3-1 and Enerst Mtawali netted the third goal.