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Flames rookies rise on big stage

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By Williams Gondwa in Durban, South Africa:

Malawi national football team’s youthful players are not afraid of taking to the international stage in their quest to cement their reputation.

The Malawi national under-23 team graduates seem to be enjoying the ride at this year’s Cosafa Cup in Durban, South Africa, where they played a crucial role in ensuring that the Flames qualify for the quarterfinals of the regional competition.

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Malawi have greatly benefited from the contribution of youngsters such as defender Charles Petro, midfielders Chimwemwe Idana and Mike Mkwate, left-back Precious Sambani and strikers Peter Banda and Hassan Kajoke.

Petro, Idana and Sambani featured in Flames’ 2-1 win over Namibia and the 3-0 thrashing of Seychelles whereas Kajoke, Banda and Mkwate played when the Flames drew 1-1 against Mozambique.

Kajoke justified his presence in the starting line-up by scoring Malawi’s goal against the Mambas.

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The youngsters look certain to use the competition to gain more experience and enhance their chances of securing foreign deals Mkwate said he was happy to be part of the team having graduated from junior national sides.

The Nyasa Big Bullets midfielder said he hopes to secure an overseas deal through the tournament.

“This is a chance for us to showcase our skills. I am happy that I have been given a chance to play. I will work even harder if I get another chance to play,” Mkwate said.

Banda said the Cosafa Cup is an opportunity to learn from experienced players and market themselves.

“I am very happy that I am now in the senior team. I am sure that with time, I will gain the much needed experience to sign for a foreign club. Playing alongside the likes of Gabadinho [Mhango] and CJ [Christopher John Banda] is a great experience,” Banda said.

Sambani said the youngsters were determined to deliver at the tournament.

He said the presence of scouts and agents at the competition is also a motivation.

“We are working hard because we know this our opportunity to secure deals with foreign clubs. We want to achieve this by helping our team to go far,” Sambani said.

Both Idana and Petro said they were learning from their senior counterparts while helping the nation to forget the Flames’ poor performance in recent years.

“The team has not been doing well recently and we are encouraging each other to work hard and win more matches,” Idana said.

The youngsters are expected to continue shining for Malawi in tomorrow’s quarterfinal against Zambia.

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