Malawians’ hopes of seeing one of their own competing in the Uefa Champions League group stages have been dealt a severe blow as Moldova side Sheriff Tiraspol did not register their Malawi National Football Team defender Charles Petro in the elite competition.
For some time now, the local football fraternity has been waiting to see Petro becoming the first Malawian to play at that level of Europe’s top club contest.
Petro was not even on the bench in Tiraspol’s two group stage assignments, when the team won.
Tiraspol started their Group D campaign with a 2-0 victory over Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk last week before shocking giants and 13-time champions Real Madrid 2-1 on Tuesday.
A list of Tiraspol players on the Uefa Champions League website does not have Petro’s name.
This means the former Nyasa Big Bullets star defender cannot play for Tiraspol in the group stage.
Tiraspol also left out goalkeeper Dušan Markovićo of Serbia and defender Veaceslav Posmac from Moldova.
Others in the same predicament are midfielders Nadrey Dago of Ivory Coast, Colombian Hansel Zapata and strikers Henrique Luvannor of Moldova and Slovenian Lovro Bizjak.
Petro was reluctant to comment on the development and only said he would continue working hard for his team.
Football analyst George Kaudza-Masina described the development as disappointing.
“This is an unfortunate turn of events for Petro’s career. He was part of the team in the preliminary rounds and it was the wish of every Malawian that our export to Moldova would grace the top stage.
“An appearance in the Uefa Champions League would expose him to the media and top scouts. This would also be a great advert for Malawi football. Unfortunately, the Sheriff technical panel had other ideas,” Kaudza-Masina said.
He said Petro should not have been among the players that were not registered for the group stages as he was performing well.
“Each time he is given game-time, Petro has always proved his worth and, in the latest game, he even scored a brilliant goal, proving that he deserved to be registered in the group stages squad,” Masina added.
Another analyst Kevin Moyo argued that Petro was good enough to secure a place in Tiraspol’s first team.
“The coaches might have their preferences but, looking at the current squad which is participating in the group stages, Petro could have fitted well in it. This is the right time for his manager to come in and fight for his player. Playing at such a big stage, Petro could have been spotted by other bigger clubs and open up opportunities for other Malawian players at the same time.
“As a reliable Flames player, more game-time at such a big stage could have been a blessing to the national team from the experience he would have gained. Otherwise, this is unfortunate and an opportunity lost for Petro and Malawi football,” Moyo said.
Player agent Felix Sapao has highlighted that Petro can be registered once the team has proceeded to the round of 16.
“The teams that have qualified for the round of 16 are allowed to register some players to beef up their squad. In this scenario Sheriff can register Petro once the group stages assignments are done and the team has gone through.
Petro is expected to join the Flames squad next week ahead of back-to-back World Cup qualifiers against Ivory Coast.