In a new twist to the Limbikani Mzava and Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango’s saga, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has ordered Bloemfontein Celtic to release the duo for the Flames’ Sunday’s game against Benin on Sunday.
However, even after CAF’s intervention, South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Celtic yesterday stuck to their guns not to release the duo for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations final preliminary round first leg slated for Cotonou.
In a letter signed by deputy general secretary Essam Ahmed addressed to Celtic’s chief executive officer Khumbulani Nkoco, CAF states that: “We would appreciate cooperation so that your club can allow the liberation of players Limbikani Mzava and Frank Gabadinho Mhango so they are allowed to rejoin the team’s training camp.
“We realise that your club does not have any legal obligation to allow the named players to join their national team at that time, but we depend on your understanding so that the players can represent their country in this important occasion, considering that participation in these games, will allow a better visibility on continental level.”
But Celtic’s technical director Mich d’ Avray told The Nation in a telephone interview from Bloemfontein yesterday that they are not moving an inch backwards on their stand because they are also preparing for the MTN8 tournament which kicks off on August 2.
“There have been many discussions, debates, arguments and counter-arguments over the issue, but the bottom line is that we are also planning ahead and the two happen to be our key players. Releasing them will be disruptive.
“The coming weekend does not fall under the Fifa calendar and a club has the right to say no, but we would not say no for the sake of it, but then the technical staff feels if we are to have good preparations for the new season, in particular the MTN8 tournament, then that is the way we should proceed,” said D’ Avray.
He also said the final decision was reached at during a four-hour meeting on Monday.
However, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has said they will not give up their pursuit of the two key players, saying they have sought intervention of their South African counterparts, Safa, apart from lodging their complaint to CA F.
“We are also in talks with Safa in line with the letter we got from CAF. Celtic are just trying to be difficult because the season has not even kicked off in South Africa.
“In fact, it is only them who are not opening up, otherwise the other teams have been flexible,” said Nyirenda.
But there were indications that FAM has made arrangements that Big Bullets defender Yamikani Fodya should leave today as a replacement for Mzava. It is not clear whether Gabadinho will also be replaced in the event that they fail to make the trip.
In a related development, FAM has also sought the Malawi Embassy in South Africa’s intervention to facilitate striker Atusaye Nyondo’s travel as his travel document is with the Department of Home Affairs in that country.
The trio missed yesterday’s international friendly match against the Cranes in Kampala, but three other foreign-based players—Robin Ngalande, Chiukepo Msowoya and Chimango Kayira arrived in the Ugandan capital in the early hours of yesterday.
Defender Harry Nyirenda and midfielder Joseph Kamwendo are expected to join the squad in Benin.