Flames coach Ernest Mtawali has included 12 foreign-based players in his 30-member squad for next month’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations’ double qualifier against Guinea’s Syli Nationale.
The Flames mentor has lived to his word and recalled four experienced players whom he discarded since he took charge of the team.
They are former captain Joseph Kamwendo, Mozambique-based goalkeeper Charles Swini, striker Zicco Mkanda, who also plies his trade in Mozambique and defender Harry Nyirenda who is based in South Africa.
The other foreign-based players are goalkeeper Simplex Nthala, defender Limbikani Mzava, midfielders Robert Ng’ambi, Chimango Kayira, Gerald Phiri Jnr and Micium Mhone and strikers Robin Ngalande and Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango.
Mtawali has, however, kept the door shut for experienced South Africa-based forwards—Esau Kanyenda and Atusaye Nyondo—who have made sporadic appearances for their teams this season, scoring a goal apiece.
He stressed in an interview yesterday that the foreign-based players will not be an automatic inclusion in the final squad.
“No one is guaranteed a place, the assessment process is still ongoing until the final week.
“Each one of the 30 players will have to prove that they deserve to be in the final squad through form, attitude and commitment. So, this is just a provisional squad,” he said.
The coach also clarified that despite reports about a fallout between him and Ng’ambi, the player has always made his squad.
“If you check the records, at no time have I ever dropped Robert. Of course, there might have been different opinions after he was put on the bench in the game against Swaziland, but he remains a key member of the squad and there is no bad blood between us, at least in as far as I am concerned and I expect him to come for the Guinea games.”
Ng’ambi, who is currently the most consistent foreign-based player, has not played for the Flames since Mtawali took over. After being reduced to the bench against Swaziland, he missed the subsequent 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Tanzania, reportedly due to an injury.
Kamwendo yesterday expressed delight at being recalled into the squad.
“I know that this is just the first step, now it is up to me to prove that I deserve a place in the team,” said Kamwendo who is currently looking for a club to join on loan.
On the local front, Mtawali has named three notable new faces—goalkeepers John Soko (Blue Eagles) and midfielder Dan Msimuko (Civo United).
He has kept faith in regulars such as Chiukepo Msowoya, John Banda, Yamikani Fodya, Stanely Sanudi, Miracle Gabeya, Schumacher Kuwali and John Lanjesi.
The notable exclusions who were part of the squad that travelled to Ethiopia for the Cecafa tournament are Levison Maganizo, Nelson Kangunje, Chawanangwa Kaonga and Yamikani Chester, but has recalled Under-20 internationals Brightone Munthali and Ernest Tambe.
The rest of the local-based players are Pilirani Zonda, Wonder Jelemani, Isaac Kaliati, Francis Mulimbika, Dalitso Sailesi and Jabulani Linje.
Out of the 18, Mtawali has also maintained faith in the Under-20 national team graduates by including eight of them—Munthali, Gabeya, Sanudi, Jelemani, Kaliati, Sailesi, Tambe and Kuwali.
TNM Super League champions Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers have contributed the highest number of players—five each.