Flames defender Charles Petro will become the first Malawian to play in the Uefa Champions League group stages after his Moldovan side FC Sheriff Tiraspol qualified for the premier European club competition.
This comes after Sheriff on Wednesday settled for a goalless draw against Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb to secure a 3-0 aggregate victory.
Prior to this, Petro matched former Flames striker Esau Kanyenda’s 2003 record as the only Malawian to feature in Europe’s most prestigious club championship.
But Kanyenda did not reach the group stages with his Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow.
In yesterday’s draw conducted in Instanbul, Turkey, Sheriff is in Group D with Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Shakhtar.
Petro, who featured as a substitute on Wednesday, said he was delighted to have helped Sherrif become the first Moldovan club to reach the group stages after four preliminary rounds.
“All my life, I never dreamed that one day I could be experiencing such historic moment. I thank my team-mates and the technical staff for ensuring that we achieve this feat,” he said.
However, the 20-year-old former Nyasa Big Bullets defender admitted that they will need to work extra hard in their next matches as they will be facing tougher opponents.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) competitions and communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka said Petro’s achievement is good for Malawi as it will expose him and the country’s football to top European clubs.
He said: “The Uefa Champions League is the apex of club football in the world and we are proud to have our own son in the competition and we wish him well in all his endeavours.”
Kanyenda yesterday said he was happy to hear that his fellow countryman has gone a step further in the Uefa Champions League.
“It is great news to see a Malawian achieving this feat. I am proud of Petro’s achievement and I wish him all the best,” the United Kingdom-based former Flames player said.
According to www.onlinegambling.com, there will be six matchdays in the group stage starting from September 14. This phase finishes on December 8 with two best teams in each group proceeding to the Round of 16.