In a sudden twist of events, midfielder Gerald Papa Phiri Jnr, who retired from the Flames after being dropped from initial Cameroon Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals squad, has reversed his decision after being recalled to replace players who have tested positive for Covid-19.
The Sudan-based attacking midfielder, who was placed on reserve list, is expected to join the Flames in Cameroon today ahead of the opening match against Guinea.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) competitions and communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka confirmed the development in an interview yesterday.
Soccer analyst David Kanyenda, who had earlier criticised the technical panel for dropping Phiri Jnr, said he was excited with the return of the former Baroka FC midfielder.
He said: “With a depleted squad due to Covid-19, Papa is a useful addition and gives offensive options to the coach. Naturally, I am thrilled with his return.”
Papa joins four other players, who were on stand-by, who also left Malawi yesterday to beef up the Flames squad.
FAM said in a statement that they had recalled Paul Ndlovu, Stain Davie, Dan Chimbalanga and goalkeeper Brighton Munthali.
The statement reads in part: “FAM has recalled the players as a measure to boost the Flames squad which has been hit by Covid-19 as six players tested positive in Cameroon while two others were delayed in Saudi Arabia as a result of being in isolation.
“The recall of the five players comes after CAF clarified on Sunday that participating teams will be allowed to use 28 players for matches at the tournament.
“The official number of players to be registered for the competition is 23, but CAF allowed participating teams to register five more players at their own cost.”
The Flames also got a boost after two defenders Mark Fodya and Charles Petro, who had remained in Saudi Arabia after testing positive for Covid-19, were cleared and joined the team in Bafoussam, Cameroon.
Malawi’s Flames registered nine positive cases, including six players and three officials.