This is it. The Flames will travel to Burkina Faso for Thursday’s 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier without their talisman Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango who is nursing a groin injury.
Until Friday, Flames coach Meck Mwase believed in cold comfort that the South Africa-based prolific forward would, against all odds, be declared fit for the contest.
His solace though, is that after missing national duty for over two years, Flames estranged captain Limbikani ‘Pupa’ Mzava has confirmed his availability for the encounter.
In an interview on Friday, Gaba said: “I am feeling much better than before. At least the pain has eased and I might resume training next week and that virtually rules me out of the match.”
His South African club Orlando Pirates also posted on its website Orlandopiratesfc.com that the 2019/20 Premier Soccer League (PSL) Golden Boot Award winner alongside three other teammates, “are still receiving treatment for their respective injuries”.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) competitions and communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka also confirmed Mhango’s unavailability.
“He is out. We had been hoping that he would pass a late fitness test, but he just can’t make it.”
He also confirmed Mzava’s availability, saying: “We are 100 percent certain that Mzava will join the squad. He has confirmed his availability and his club has also cleared him.”
The South Africa-based defender, who is the longest serving member in the Flames squad, last featured for the national football team on September 8 2018 against Morocco in a 2019 Afcon qualifier.
Mwase said he is delighted with Mzava’s prospective return, saying: “He adds value to the team owing to his experience and abilities. The young players also look up to him for inspiration.”
In form striker Richard Mbulu—who is the joint leading scorer in the South African DStv Premiership—is also set to join the squad alongside teammate Gerald Phiri Jnr, Polokwane City defender Dennis Chembezi and Mzava in Johannesburg tomorrow enroute to Burkina Faso.
US-based Yamikani Chester already joined the squad as he was in the country on off-season as did Mozambique-based duo—John ‘CJ’ Banda and Schumacher Kuwali.
However, Mwase has dropped South Africa-based striker Chawanangwa Kawonga and Kenya-based Andrew Maliselo.
Maliselo, who turns out for Gor Mahia, featured for two minutes as a substitute when he made his debut against Zimbabwe’s Warriors in a friendly match last month.
Mwase was expected to release his full squad later on Friday.