South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs have turned down Football Association of Malawi’s (FAM) request to allow their players to take part in the 17th edition of the Cosafa Cup.
The tournament rolls into life this Sunday in the rainbow nation’s East Western Province.
FAM were hoping that South African teams would soften up and release defender Limbikani Mzava (Golden Arrows), striker Gabadinho Mhango (Bidvest Wits), and midfielders Robert Ng’ambi and Gerald Phiri Jnr (both Platinum Stars) on the basis that they are off-season..
Team manager James Sangala yesterday confirmed that the South African clubs had stuck to their guns.
“We tried to negotiate, but it appears they have put their foot down. In fact, just this morning, I got communication that Arrows want Mzava to report back for pre-season this coming Sunday,” he said.
Phiri and Mzava yesterday confirmed having been instructed by their respective clubs not to feature in the Cosafa tournament.
Said Phiri: “I am still here [in Malawi], but I have been told not to take part in Cosafa Cup.”
On his part, Mzava said: “I have just left camp this morning. I wish if there was an option, but as it is, I am afraid I have no choice.”
Flames coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) expressed his disappointment with the development.
“Yes, the tournament is not on Fifa calendar, but I felt South Africa being a member of Cosafa, would soften up. And I fail to understand why they had to wait until the last few days.
“I hope there will be no double standards whereby South Africa will be able to feature players from their top league,” he said.
Nevertheless, RVG said he hopes local-based players will take advantage of the situation to prove their worth.
On her part, Cosafa chief executive officer Sue Destombes said the best they can do is to ask South Africa football Association (Safa) to negotiate with the teams.
“But the challenge is that our tournament will be played outside Fifa calendar dates and, as such, our hands are tied. However, in future we will see what we can do about it,” she said.
The development means that Malawi will only have one foreign-based player in Tanzania-based goalkeeper Owen Chaima as Mozambican clubs also recalled their players last week.
The Flames will face Tanzania in their opening Group A fixture on Sunday before taking on Mauritius two days later. Their last match will be against Angola on June 29. n