Azriel Johnson, son to former Zimbabwe Warriors player and a Malawian mother, has chosen to play for the Flames, a development that has put under fire that country’s football authorities for failing to convince the teenager to play for Warriors.
One of Zimbabwe’s leading dailies, the Daily News, has faulted Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) for failing to convince the teenager to follow his father’s footsteps.
The development comes after the player, who was part of Malawi Under-20 national football team that participated at the 2016 Cosafa Cup, was signed by St. Benedict’s Cedar Academy in New Jersey, USA.
“Some of the upcoming generation of Zimbabwean footballers, who have honed their skills in academies particularly in England, have opted to play for other countries due to the bottlenecks associated with acquiring a Zimbabwean passport. Everton’s Brendon Galloway has chosen to represent England.
“Although the Constitution allows for dual citizenship, in order to acquire a Zimbabwean passport, an individual still has to renounce one of their citizenships first. Zifa should also be able to facilitate this process, but it is not the case. Another good example of a player affected by this scenario is the highly-rated midfielder Azriel Kalin Johnson, who has chosen to play for Malawi,” reported the newspaper.
While the Zimbabweans are crying foul over the player’s decision to play for Malawi, the Under-20 coach, Gerald Phiri, has left out the teenager from the squad that is currently in camp for the 2017 Cosafa Cup.
But FAM player transfer system manager Casper Jangale said Johnson is still in the association’s development plans.
Since the player has not played for the senior team, the Flames, he can change his mind and play for Zimbabwe Warriors, according to Fifa rules.
But Azriel’s father said much as he would have liked his son to represent Zimbabwe, he will not interfere with his future.
“My wish was always for my son to play for Zimbabwe, but the process for him to acquire a local passport was just too long. He has made a decision to play for Malawi and I respect that. He will turn 18 soon and can make a final decision.
“It’s his choice. I am a former Zimbabwe international and my wife is Malawian. He [Azriel] has actually represented Zimbabwe juniors before playing for the Malawi Under-20. But as of now he still wants to play for Malawi,” said Johnson who played for MTL Wanderers under Rahman Gumbo.
The teenager was nurtured at the Aces Youth Soccer Academy (AYSA),
Before going to the US, he had offers from Denmark where Quincy Antipas’ team Hobro IK had decided to sign him into their academy, but first wanted him to go to AmaZulu in South Africa until he had turned 18. n