Flames dead ball specialist Gerald Phiri Jnr has revealed feeling jittery as he took the penalty against Botswana’s Zebras on Tuesday in a 2022 World Cup preliminary round second leg qualifier.
Phiri stepped up to convert the spot-kick, awarded after a Botswana defender had fouled a dangerously advancing Richard Mbulu in the 83rd minute.
The lone goal was enough to propel Malawi to the group stage.
The South Africa-based gangly midfielder made time appear to standstill, freezing the emotions of thousands of fans inside the Kamuzu Stadium as his cheeky penalty kick floated goalwards.
“I was shaking, but then I looked at how packed the stadium was and realised I could not disappoint them as well as my colleagues.
“Being the chosen penalty taker, it was my responsibility to step up and bring joy on every Malawian’s face,” he said.
Ironically, the Baroka FC player has scored in all the past three competitive home wins for the Flames.
He scored the lone goal against e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland) in September 2016 during a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier.
Phiri was also on target against Comoros in a 2019 qualifier in June 2017 which Malawi won by the same margin.
When asked how he feels about such a record, Phiri was a model of reticence, saying: “Well… It doesn’t really mean a lot because we haven’t really been doing well, but I am glad that I can help my country.”
Flames coach Meke Mwase said penalties are unpredictable, but he had faith in the chosen one.
“It is not that he cannot miss, but ‘Papa’ [Gerald] is exceptional when it comes to dead balls, that is why it had to be him,” he said. n