Flames coach Meke Mwase has justified playing Lesotho’s Likuena (Crocodiles) as sparring partners in two international friendly matches on Friday and Sunday in Maseru, Lesotho ahead of next month’s African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
The tactician said the 137-ranked Likuena was the only team that responded positively to a request to host the Flames ranked 124, after several FAs were approached.
“Actually, we asked for a friendly game that would help our boys keep in shape. It’s only Lesotho that accepted. It’s because we hosted them sometime back and they have likewise accepted,” he said.
The Flames, under Ronny van Geneugden, hosted Lesotho in November 2017 at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe in a friendly that ended one-all.
Mwase said the two friendly games will help the Flames to keep in shape ahead of next month’s African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
Malawi is in Group B alongside Burkina Faso, Uganda and the preliminary round winner between South Sudan and Seychelles—who will be the Flames’ first opponent next month.
Though the team will train just for three days, Mwase has called 27 players for the camp.
“This camp is part of our preparations for Afcon qualifiers. Things can happen in camp. There can be injuries. Some players may not be with us because of injuries. This is why we called all these players. Remember, we are in World Cup and Afcon group stages and we need depth,” he said.
The team is expected to leave for Maseru on Thursday and will be joined by foreign-based players in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The coach has handed debut call-ups for Blue Eagles up-and-coming striker Foster Bitoni and Nyasa Big Bullets’ budding defender Nixon Nyasulu.
Conspicuously missing from the squad is Silver Strikers marksman Khuda Muyaba who last weekend scored his second 2019 TNM Super League hat-trick to take his tally to 13 goals, one shy of leading goal scorer Nigerian Adepoju Babatunde.
Apart from Bitoni, Mwase has instead opted for strikers Patrick Phiri, Hassan Kajoke (Bullets) and Chikayiko Batison (Mighty Tigers)
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said Muyaba’s recent spat with other players in which he scorned them as cricketers, might be the reason why Mwase is snubbing him for Flames camp.
“It’s a tricky situation. While accepting that Khuda is indeed in top form and deserves a call-up, his presence in camp might bring tension among players because of his remarks,” he said.
Meanwhile, US-based professional Yamikani Chester joined the squad on Tuesday.