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Gerald Phiri Jnr quits Flames

Retires after his axing from Afcon squad

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George Kaudza Masina

Gerald ‘Papa’ Phiri Junior, who was one of the influential players in Flames’ qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals, has announced his retirement from international football at the age of 28.

His decision came just few hours after he was left out of Marian Mario Marinica’s 23-member squad ahead of Afcon finals slated to take place next week in Cameroon.

The Al Hilal attacker announced his decision through his manager Paul Mitchell, who is also Managing Director of Siyavuma Sports Group.

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Mitchell said the former Baroka FC forward was very disappointed and actually bewildered with his exclusion from the final Afcon squad.

“Having deliberated the decision overnight, discussing it with myself and his family, Gerald has made the decision to retire from International football with immediate effect and will return to Al Hilal as soon as possible to prepare for the upcoming season and the Caf Champions League,” Mitchell said in a written statement.

“It is not a decision he has taken lightly, but in light of the situation, a decision we all feel is the right one and we will give Gerald our full support to the Flames are in Group B alongside Senegal, Guinea and Zimbabwe.

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Marinica was not readily available for his reaction on Phiri Junior’s retirement from international football.

However, during a virtual press conference yesterday said all was well in the dressing room.

“No member of the squad has complained to me or to the captain or the vice captain about it,” he said.

Phiri Junior scored two goals for the Flames during the Afcon qualifiers in a 3-1 loss to Burkina Faso and 1-0 win over South Sudan in Khartoum.

He also helped the Flames to qualify for the Group Stages of the World Cup qualifiers after scoring a penalty in a 1-0 win over Botswana at Kamuzu Stadium.

Sports analyst George Kaudza-Masina said the decision had been made out of frustration.

“It is a hasty decision and I would urge him to rethink it. At his age, he has a lot to offer. For him to be marketable, he needs to play for the national football team. But I also blame the technical panel for this mess,” Kaudza- Masina said.

At the 2019 Cosafa Cup held in South Africa, Phiri Junior was named Player of the Tournament after finishing as joint top goal-scorer alongside compatriot Gabadinho Mhango and Ashley Nazira from Mauritius.

He made his Flames debut during the 2015 Cosafa Cup in South Africa.

He scored a free kick in a practice match against Bafana Bafana in the build-up to the tournament in Rustenburg.

The former Mighty Wanderers star scored first official goal for the Flames in a 1-0 win over eSwatini at Kamuzu Stadium before he did the same in a 1-0 victory over Comoros Islands at Bingu National Stadium during the 2019 Afcon qualifiers.

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