Injury-plagued captain Peter â€˜Mjojoâ€™ Mpondaâ€™s absence from the Flames is set to continue as he has ruled himself out of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations final qualifiers against Ghanaâ€™s Black Stars later this year.
Mponda, considered one of the best defenders the country has ever produced, also hinted on retiring from international football soon, having served his country for over 14 years.
He disclosed on Thursday that he underwent another surgery on his knee recently and doctors recommended that he should stay out of action until November this year.
“I underwent a successful operation this time around and doctors recommended that I should have a good long rest.
“So, much as I would have loved to be part of a committed youthful squad that will face Ghana, I am afraid I will not be available as I will only return to action towards the end of the year,” said Mponda from Cape Town.
He also disclosed that he has asked Santos management to allow him return home for his recuperation.
“I had a meeting with management and I suggested that there would be no reason for me to hang around here for the next five months since I will not be playing and I am just waiting for their response,” he said.
Commenting on his future, Mponda said: “I still have a year left on my contract with Santos, but I am weighing other options. I also plan to retire from international football soon as I head towards the swansong of my playing career before hanging up my boots altogether.”
Added Mponda: “I believe the national team now has capable young defenders such as Limbikani Mzava, Foster Namwela and Harry Nyirenda. With guidance from James Sangala and Moses Chavula, the future looks rosy.
“If anything I will just be there to play a guiding role before taking a final bow. The truth is that I am getting old and I need to prepare for my future. The recurring injury has also taken its toll. There always comes a time and I feel mine is steadily approaching.”
Nyamilandu, Kinnah and former Flames midfield star Ernest Mtawali hailed Mponda as a hero for Malawi football.
Said Nyamilandu: “It is sad that the injury has betrayed him. Otherwise, I felt he still had a lot to offer. He has done an honourable service to the nation and we want his retirement to be smooth. The knowledge he has gained should be passed on to up-and-coming talent.
“It is no mean feat to play for the national team for 14 years. He has been disciplined, his moral behaviour has also been good. To keep such level of discipline and dedication is not easy and we would want him to retire as a hero. He is a role model not only for up-and-coming footballers but the youth as well.”
The FAM leader also said they will come up with a career path for Mponda by exposing him to coaching courses as well as assigning him to other duties once he retires.
On his part, Kinnah said he would make good use of the little playing time Mponda has to groom other players.
“I do not know what I can say, but there are times when one is strained with emotions and I am really touched. This country has produced great defenders such as Jack [Chamangwana], Young Chimodzi, the late Harry Waya and Peter [Mponda] falls in that category,” said Kinnah.
Mtawali said at the peak of his career, Mponda was a world-class defender.
“He could have played for any team in the world. I was privileged to play in some of the worldâ€™s top leagues such as France and Argentina and my view is that at the peak of his career, Peter was miles ahead of some defenders I played with,” said Mtawali.
â€”Mponda was captain when the Flames qualified for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations after 26 years.
â€”He attended successful trials at Mainz 05 in Germany and Auxerre in France, but could not be signed due to controversies.
â€”Apart from Santos, he has been captain at most of the clubs he has played for.
â€”He made his debut for the Flames against Zimbabweâ€™s Warriors in January 1998.
â€”He was appointed Flames captain in July 2005.
â€”He was voted player of the year in 2002 MBC Entertainers of the Year programme.
â€”He was named Santos player of the year for 2010/11 season.