The Flames have suffered a setback in their preparations for the Cosafa Cup as Nyasa Big Bullets have said they will not release their players for training due to the People’s Team’s crammed diary.
Bullets have contributed seven players to the national team which started training yesterday in Blantyre ahead of the regional showpiece set to run from May 27 to June 9 in Limpopo Province, South Africa.
The seven Bullets players are goalkeepers Ernest Kakhobwe and Rabson Chienda, defenders John Lanjesi and Miracle Gabeya, midfielder Mike Mkwate, strikers Chiukepo Msowoya and Patrick Phiri.
The People’s Team chief executive officer (CEO) Fleetwood Haiya yesterday said considering that they are supposed to travel to Mzuzu where they will face Moyale Barracks this Saturday in an Airtel Top 8 quarter-final second leg tie, they thought it wise not to release the players until after the match.
“Logistically, it will be a challenge for us to play a game in Lilongwe today [yesterday] against Civil Sporting Club and then travel to Blantyre to prepare for the Mzuzu trip.
“So, we have planned to camp here in the Central Region after the Civil game enroute to Mzuzu and that means we cannot release our players for national team training because that will require them travelling back to Lilongwe to join us for the Mzuzu trip after just a few days,” he said.
The Bullets CEO argued that the arrangement should not be a setback to the Flames as even foreign-based players are released during the week before the game.
“So, it’s not something that FAM [Football Association of Malawi] should really dwell on. The other thing is that procedurally, FAM is supposed to communicate with us on which players they have called for national duty for planning purposes, but they do not do that.
“But we have asked them to do so and we will respond accordingly based on their communication,” said Haiya.
He also said being the organisers of the Airtel Top 8, FAM should have foreseen such an eventuality.
“In fact the national team stands to benefit from such an arrangement because the players will be active.”
But Flames team manager James Sangala said Bullets’ players absence “will greatly affect the team’s preparations as they will only join us during the week leading to the game”.
He said: “I wish there was a better way of handling this, otherwise it is a setback.”
Meanwhile, Sangala said because of the Bullets players’ absence, they have been forced to beef up the squad by calling Civil Sporting Club and Azam Tigers strikers Raphael Phiri and Luke Chima, respectively.
“That said, we have started training today [yesterday] on a low note with only six players since the others are still with their teams,” he said.
The six who reported yesterday were Ian Chinyama, Dennis Chembezi, Richard Mbulu, Levison Maganizo, Mphatso Phillemon and Brighton Munthali. n