Malawi national football team coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) is expected to submit his final squad for 2018 Cosafa Cup today without assessing Nyasa Big Bullets players who missed assessment camp.
Bullets goalkeepers Ernest Kakhobwe and Rabson Chiyenda, defenders John Lanjesi and Miracle Gabeya, midfielder Mike Mkwate, strikers Chiukepo Msowoya and Patrick Phiri missed the camp after the club refused to release them.
Bullets opted to camp in Lilongwe in preparation for Saturday’s Airtel Top 8 quarter-final second leg against Moyale Barracks and said they would only be able to release the players on Sunday after the match set for Mzuzu Stadium.
The decision has put the players at a disadvantage since the deadline for submitting the 20-man squad for the Cosafa Cup to organisers is Sunday and Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary Alfred Gunda said he expects to get the final squad from RVG today.
He said: “The assessment exercise concludes tomorrow [Thursday]. Which means by end of today [Wednesday] afternoon session, he would have picked his Cosafa Cup. Tomorrow, the players will be released to join their clubs and those that will make it into the final squad will regroup on Monday.”
Asked if this would affect the team’s preparations since he did not have a look at all the local players, Gunda said as a professional, RVG was well aware of the consequences when the Bullets players failed to turn up for assessment.
“In my view, by now the coach knows who is going or not. It’s the same with the five professional players. None of them attended the assessment exercise. They will be joining the squad on Monday.
“As for the Bullets players, it’s a request which the club made and I cannot say much about it, except to assume that they also knew the implications before withholding the players. Right now RVG has more than the required number of players in camp. The question is does he need them or not? That’s up to him to decide,” said Gunda.
RVG was not available for comment as he was conducting a training session yesterday.
But Flames team manager James Sangala indicated that it would not be automatic that all the seven players would be in the final squad.
“We already have more than 20 players in the squad before Bullets and the professional players. The professional players such as Dalitso Sailesi, John Banda and Chawanangwa Kaonga will join us on Monday while Robin Ngalande will arrive today. So, yes, while the Bullets players are still in RVG’s plans, not all of them will make it in the final squad. We have to trim the squad,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bullets assistant coach Elia Kananji said it was up to the coach to decide whether to pick the players or not.
“Our decision not to release the players was reasonable. We needed to consider the players’ health first. If he [RVG] wants to drop them, let him do so,” he said.