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Under-17 stars South Africa-bound

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B Mabvuto Kambuwe:

Two Malawi Under-17 national football players, Tatenda Mbalaka and Mark Kwalira, have a chance to get a feel of professional football trials as they are expected to travel to South Africa today for month-long trials at Western Cape ABC Motsepe League side Santos FC.

Both players ply their trade for Lilongwe-based Play Soccer Academy. The pair was spotted during the 2017 and 2018 Cosafa Castle Cup Youth Championship in Mauritius.

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According to a letter from the South African club, dated January 22 2019, the two players have an outright chance to get a contract if they impress during the trials.

“The said players will attend trials at our youth team. Santos FC will provide food and accommodation to the players during the entire period of their trials in South Africa. Upon successful trials, the club will exercise its right to outrightly sign the players, who will be issued with contracts in accordance with rules and regulations guiding international youth players.

“We therefore acknowledge that the said players are indeed coming to South Africa for purposes of football trials and that the immigration department can contact us should they require any information. Upon arrival, our team officials will pick them up to the hotel which they will lodge during trials,’’ reads part of the letter from Santos.

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Kwalira, who has turned 18 this year, was spotted in 2017 whereas Mbalaka was identified in July last year. Mbalaka scored one goal as Malawi thrashed Zimbabwe 5-0 during the tournament.

In an interview from South Africa Friday, Santos Technical Director, Hillary Khoza, confirmed the development.

“We have seen that Malawi is hiding a lot of talented footballers. There are more good players in Malawi, better than our players in South Africa but they lack exposure. We are looking at getting more up-and-coming players from Malawi this year,” Khoza said from Cape Town.

Play Soccer Malawi Technical Director Davie Mpima, who is also General Secretary of Malawi Football Coaches Association, confirmed that the two players will leave today.

 “We have a pool of talented players. It is pleasing that we have now started reaping the fruits and we are optimistic that the players will excel in South Africa,” Mpima said.

Santos were relegated from the Absa Premier Soccer League in the 2011-12 season for the first time in the club’s history. The club was also demoted from the National First Division some two years ago.

Former Flames captain Peter Mponda had a stint with the club during his playing days. Taonga Chimodzi also played for the same club.

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