Simply unbelievable. TNM Super League leading scorer Maxwell Gasten Phodo has been left out of the Flames’ squad who start preparations for 2022 World Cup qualifiers and 2021 Africa Cup of Nations’ (Afcon) finals on Monday.
The Silver Strikers hitman, who has scored 12 goals so far in the top-flight league, is not part of Flames gaffer Meck Mwase’s 24-member squad to face Tanzania’s Taifa Stars on June 13 in Dar es Salaam.
However, during a press conference held through zoom yesterday, Mwase justified the decision, saying the squad has been called at short notice; hence, the focus was on the tried and tested.
“We have considered those that have been playing regularly and we will have time to call more local-based players as we have asked for more friendly matches because we are also looking at the upcoming Cosafa Cup,” he said.
Incredibly, the squad includes one local-based forward Nomads’ Vincent Nyangulu, who has four goals in the domestic league—eight behind Phodo.
The other strikers are South Africa-based trio of Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango, Richard Mbulu and Khuda Muyaba.
Muyaba, who has six Flames appearances, is yet to score for the national team.
Football analyst Kelvin Moyo described Phodo’s exclusion as unfortunate.
He said: “I would say whatever the case, Phodo and [midfielder] Vitumbiko [Kumwenda] should have been included. Malawi’s biggest problem technically is scoring goals and it should have been normal to include the national league leading scorer.”
Midfielder Robin Ngalande is also not part of the squad as he is recovering from an injury he sustained against Uganda while Moldova-based winger Peter Banda has excused himself so that he can concentrate on negotiating a permanent contract with Sheriff Traspol following the expiry of his loan deal.
Mwase has also recalled forgotten Cypriot-based midfielder Tawonga Chimodzi who last featured for the Flames against Chad in February 2012.
Former US-based attacker Yamikani Chester, who missed the 2021 Afcon qualifiers against South Sudan and Uganda, has also been recalled.
In an interview yesterday, Chimodzi who turns out for Cypriot second division side Omonia Aradipou, said he is delighted to return for national duty.
Said the 32-year-old midfielder: “It’s a good moment for me and I thank God for the opportunity as it is written that time and chance happen to all. So, I am happy.”
All the three goalkeepers that have been called up—Ernest Kakhobwe, Brightone Munthali and William Thole—have not enjoyed regular game time at their respective clubs so far this season.
The full squad, which includes 10 foreign-based players, is as follows: Goalkeepers: Kakhobwe, Thole and Munthali; Defenders: Limbikani Mzava, Charles Petro, Stanley Sanudi, Peter Cholopi, Precious Sambani, Nickson Nyasulu, Paul Ndhlovu and Dennis Chembezi; Midfielders: Chimwemwe Idana, Chikoti Chirwa, Chimango Kayira, Rafick Namwera, Chimodzi, Chester, Fransisco Madinga, John ‘CJ’ Banda and Gerald Phiri Jnr; Strikers: Nyangulu, Mhango, Mbulu and Muyaba.