Flames coach Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG) has left out South Africa-based Platinum Stars duo of Robert Ng’ambi and Gerald Phiri Jnr from his Cosafa Cup squad after the players excused themselves from the national team in March.
The two players snubbed a call-up for the international friendly against Uganda, saying they wanted to concentrate on helping their club fight relegation.
Platinum Stars has since been relegated, but the duo is still conspicuously missing from RVG’s 27-player squad.
RVG’s squad has only one South Africa-based player, Baroka FC striker Robin Ngalande.
Portugal-based Richard Mbulu, Lusaka Dynamos’ Dalitso Sailesi, Mozambique-based midfielder John Banda (Ferroviaro de Nampula) and Chawanangwa Kaonga (Costa do Sol) are the other foreign-based players in the squad.
RVG said the five foreign-based players were the ones that were available for the tournament and also expressed interest to be invited.
“The fact is that these players wanted to be part of the team and informed the team manger to invite them,” said RVG.
Captain Limbikani Mzava already excused himself from the team, arguing that the coach should concentrate on exposing local players only while Atusaye Nyondo and Frank Gabadinho Mhango are recovering from injuries.
Team manager James Sangala said since Phiri Jnr and Ng’ambi excused themselves from the Uganda friendly to concentrate on their club’s survival in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), the technical panel assumed that they are still not available.
He said: “We are waiting for them to come back to us and say if they are now free to join the team. They never did. Considering that their team was relegated [from PSL] we assume that they are not psychologically prepared to return to the team.”
However, Sangala conceded that the players were never contacted to find out if they were ready to return to the team.
Phiri’s refused to comment on the matter while Ng’ambi said it was the coach’s descretion to pick players of his choice.
RVG has maintained nine players from the 2017 Cosafa Cup squad.
Players making the Cosafa Cup squad list for the first time are Precious Sambani, Felix Zulu, Alfred Manyozo Jnr (Wanderers), Rabson Chiyenda, Patrick Phiri, Mike Mkwate (Bullets), Mphatso Phillimon, (Silver), Chimwemwe Idana (Bullets Reserves).
Football analyst David Kanyenda applauded RVG for maintaining the bulk of the players in his squad.
He said: “I like RVG’s consistency in naming his team. He has faith in his players. Only Chikoti Chirwa [on peace keeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo], Yamikani Chester [injury], Ng’ambi and Phiri Jnr are missing for one valid reason or another.” n