Coach Ernest Mtawali’s mission to South Africa has brought nothing but sorrow after discovering that the majority of the Flames players are idle due to various reasons. The coach wanted 60:40 ratio of professional players to local players in Flames squad that faces Guinea in back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers in March, but this is unlikely to happen. Only Limbikani Mzava, Micium Mhone and Robert Ng’ambi are enjoying notable game time.
Atusaye Nyondo (University of Pretoria), Harry Nyirenda (Black Leopards), Gerald Phiri Jnr (Bidvets Wits) and Robin Ngalande (Platinum Stars) are all struggling to get game time. Mtawali said he would try to plead with the clubs to consider featuring the players for the sake of the Flames. “Gerald does not have a work permit. Harry’s contract with Leopards is expiring in June and he has not yet renewed it because he wants to move to another club. His club is angry and has stopped featuring him,” Mtawali said. Striker Ngalande is not playing for Platinum Stars despite Mtawali pleading with his coaches when the player joined the club at the beginning of the season. “When he (Robin) moved to Platinum Stars, I spoke to his coach, who promised to give the player some game time. But that has not happened. He is not playing as well,” said Mtawali. “It’s really frustrating for me as a coach because these are players who are in my plans and what is happening will affect the national team.” Striker Nyondo has also been struggling at University of Pretoria to win a first-team spot after he made his loan move permanent. But the coach said he was impressed with Gabadinho’s performance in the game against Kaizer Chiefs. “I think after that injury, Gaba has at least recovered his form,” Mtawali said. “But unfortunately, with what has happened, he will be idle for the next four months.” Celtic have released Mhango after learning that he signed a pre-contract with Bidvets. Mtawali is yet to meet midfielder Ng’ambi, who has not played for the Flames after he was left on the bench in the Afcon qualifier against Swaziland last year. Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda said they were aware of the players’ predicament. “We already saw that coming; that’s why we opted for early preparations,” said Nyirenda. “We resolved that the local players, who are on off season, should start local camping early February for fitness purposes.” n