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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Blow for Malawi as Covid-19 rules out Petro and Fodya for Guinea opener

09:54 GMT+3 08/01/2022
Malawi national team.
The Flames will miss the services of two key players when they start their campaign with a game against the Syli Nationale

Malawi have confirmed midfielder Charles Petro and defender Mark Fodya will not be available for the team’s Africa Cup of Nations opening fixture against Guinea after testing positive for Covid-19.

The two players tested positive while with the Flames in their 10-day pre-Afcon training camp in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, striker Richard Mbulu, who had also tested positive for Covid-19 while in Jeddah, has been cleared to join the Flames camp in Bafoussam, Cameroon after testing negative.

“Striker Richard Mbulu has been cleared to join the Flames camp in Bafoussam, Cameroon after testing negative for Covid-19 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” Malawi confirmed on their official website.

“However midfielder Charles Petro and defender Mark Fodya have tested positive again and will remain in isolation in Jeddah.

“The three were left behind in Saudi Arabia, where the team went for a 10-day pre-Afcon training camp, after they tested positive to Covid-19 on Monday, January 3, when the Flames were leaving Jeddah for Cameroon.

“Mbulu will travel on Saturday, January 8 and will arrive on Sunday, in time for the Flames’ 2021 Afcon first match against Guinea on Monday, January 10.

“Petro and Fodya will have another test on Saturday afternoon and once cleared they will travel on Monday meaning they are ruled out of the Guinea game.”

Flames head of Technical Mario Marinica has welcomed the availability of Mbulu terming it a big boost to the team’s plan for Monday’s game but bemoaned the absence of Fodya and Petro.

“It is good news that Mbulu is negative and is coming on Saturday. This will help us with the squad plan,” Marinica told the same portal. “However, it is a very difficult situation with Fodya and Petro.

“The two are very crucial to our Afcon plans with what we did with them in Saudi Arabia. Now we have to re-assess and re-adjust and hope we will still get flying colours.”

Meanwhile, Malawi FA President Walter Nyamilandu has set a target of reaching the knockout stage for the Flames.

The Flames will be appearing in their third Afcon and they have never gone past the group stage of the competition.

“We must make a record which we have never done in the past. Last time in 2010 we went to Angola we beat the strongest team of the tournament Algeria,” Nyamilandu said.

“But we lost the other two matches and bowed out. When we beat Algeria there were huge celebrations in Malawi and up to now Malawians still remember that match.

“In 1984 during our maiden appearance, we drew 2-2 against one of the tournament’s favourites Nigeria, and one of our stars Clifton Msiya scored the goal of the tournament in that match. People still remember that.

“What will Malawians remember you for? When we leave this tournament will Malawians remember you for good things or bad things?

“Malawi should not remember you for losing 10-0 or scoring own goals or for indiscipline. We must leave a mark here by qualifying for the knockout stages. You must become the first generation in our history to go past the group stages.

“This is a unique team. You qualified nice and clean with good results and you can do more than what others did before. Nothing is impossible.

“We need positive minds and approach in everything that we will be doing here for us to get results. We need to change our way of doing things and adopt a new approach. We need to have a big heart to go an extra mile and we will go far in this tournament.”

After taking on the Syli Nationale in their opener, the Flames will come up against Zimbabwe on January 14 and then end their group phase with a clash against Senegal on January 18.