Flames coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) has given in to calls from some quarters to recall experienced players as the team tunes up for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Morocco’s Atlas Lions in March next year.
RVG has recalled in-form Nyasa Big Bullets hitman Chiukepo Msowoya and South Africa-based forwards Robin Ngalande and Atusaye Nyondo in the 28-member squad which has been called up for next Saturday’s strength testing match against Lesotho’s Likuena at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe. The team is scheduled to go into camp tomorrow in Lilongwe.
Also recalled are forgotten Mozambique-based forwards Schumacher Kuwali and Chawanangwa Kawonga.
However, the Flames mentor has kept the door shut for revitalised local-based veterans such as striker Esau Kanyenda and midfielders Fischer Kondowe and Joseph Kamwendo—who are enjoying a rich vein of form—saying the emphasis is to build a strong team that can last the next five years..
“The emphasis is on building a strong squad for the future, but as I said the door is still open and in the short-term, I will continue to assess the performance of other experienced players. But we are taking one step at a time,” he said.
The coach also said he has drafted in a number of forwards in a bid to strengthen the striking force which appears to be the Flames’ weakest link. However, TNM Super League leading scorer Mathews Sibale as well as second leading scorer Mphatso Phillimon, have not been included.
But RVG was quick to point out that Sibale is not being included because “there is an administrative hitch that needs to be sorted out”.
Flames captain Limbikani ‘Pupa’ Mzava led the clamour for the recall of some experienced players, saying in the short-term, there is need to blend experience and new blood as the team prepares for the upcoming Afcon qualifiers against Morocco and Cameroon.
“It is pleasing to note that the coach has heeded the call to include some experienced players such as Robin, Atusaye and Chiukepo and now it is up to them to prove that they deserve to be part of the squad,” said Mzava in an interview from his Durban base in South Africa on Friday.
Ngalande and Chiukepo on Friday pledged to repay the coach for his faith in them.
“It is always an honour to be considered for national duty and I will fight for a place in the team,” said Ngalande whose Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Baroka FC tops the table with 17 points from 10 matches, two ahead of Mzava’s second-placed Golden Arrows.
Meanwhile, RVG has dropped Mozambique-based midfielder Frank Banda and striker Richard Mbulu due to injuries they picked while on club duty in a Taca Cup final last weekend. They have since been replaced by rookie defender Precious Sambani and Righteous Banda.
The Flames are joint top with hosts and African champions Cameroon in Group B with three points following their 1-0 wins over Comoros and Morocco, respectively.
The full squad, which includes 11 foreign-based players, is as follows: Goalkeepers: Charles Swini, Brightone Munthali, Richard Chipuwa and Charles Thom; Defenders: Dennis Chembezi, Stanley Sanudi, Mzava (C), Gomezgani Chirwa, Miracle Gabeya, Yamikani Fodya, John Lanjesi and Sambani; Midfielders: Chikoti Chirwa; Chimwemwe Idana, Levison Maganizo, Gerald Phiri Jnr and Robert Ng’ambi; Strikers/Wingers: Kaonga, Kuwali, Fletcher Bandawe, Nyondo, Jabulani Linje, Righteous Banda, Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango, Dalitso Sailesi, John Banda, Chiukepo and Ngalande.