Richard Mbulu axed
Mario Marinica names Afcon qualifiers squad
Malawi National Football Team Head Coach Marian Mario Marinica has dropped striker Richard Mbulu from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers squad against Ethiopia and Guinea.
The Flames will host Ethiopia in the Group D opener at Bingu National Stadium on Sunday before facing Guinea away in Conakry four days later.
Marinica named a 25-member squad Monday ahead of the two matches.
However, there is no place for Mbulu, whose goal against Uganda last year helped the Flames qualify for the previous edition held in Cameroon.
Marinica justified Mbulu’s exclusion saying the Golden Arrows bound striker has struggled for form in the DStv Premiership which saw his side Baroka FC relegated.
“Mbulu, I deemed he is not on form. Gabadinho Mhango is lacking game time but he did not play many matches either before Afcon but he did well so I believe he will replicate his form in Afcon,” the Romanian said.
However, Mbulu, who arrived in the country last week, differed with Marinica, claiming he excused himself from the squad to concentrate on personal issues.
“I requested that I should not be included due to personal reasons. I wish the team well and I will be at Bingu Stadium supporting the team on Sunday,” Mbulu said.
Mbulu scored three goals in the DStv Premiership for Baroka in the just ended season.
However, the former Mafco FC striker, who won the Golden Boot award with 19 goals in 2016, is on the verge of joining Arrows at the end of his contract next month.
Meanwhile, Flames captain Limbikani Mzava has also been ruled out of the two matches due to a hamstring injury.
The Romanian has maintained the bulk of the Flames players who were part of the 2021 Afcon finals squad in Cameroon.
Apart from Mbulu, Robin Ngalande, Zebron Kalima, Peter Cholopi and William Thole are the other players who were in the 2021 Afcon finals squad but have been dropped.
But Marinica has also included Mighty Mukuru Wanderers veteran striker Chiukepo Msowoya, who has scored five goals in the TNM Super League this season.
Polokwane City striker Khuda Muyaba, who netted 15 goals in the just-ended National First Division season, is also in the squad.
Silver Strikers goal poacher Stain Davie is part of the squad alongside four uncapped players namely Blessings Mpokera, Alick Lungu, Clever Mkungula (all Nyasa Big Bullets) and Blue Eagles blossoming striker Gaddie Chirwa.
Goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe and Charles Thom have also been included.
Sports analyst Parley Chinyama said Marinica has goofed on Mbulu.
“Mbulu should have been included in the squad. His work rate is top class. It is only Gaba and Khuda who can match Mbulu but the rest of the strikers are below Mbulu,” Chinyama said.
Meanwhile, former Flames midfielder Sherry Msuku has backed Marinica’s squad.
“The coach has brought in tried and trusted players who can blend with a few new players. I am sure this squad can beat Ethiopia on a good day,” he said.
The Flames are expected to face Egypt in September home and away before meeting Ethiopia and Guinea again in March next year.
Malawi qualified for the 2021 Afcon finals with 10 points under Meck Mwase after finishing second in a group which had Burkina Faso, Uganda and South Sudan.
Peter Fote is a Sports Journalist with huge experience in radio and Television reporting, production and presentation. He once worked with Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and is currently working for Times Media Group.