Africa-Press – Malawi. Malawi’s international football squad will enjoy a long break before resuming their Africa Cup of Nations Qualification matches in 2021. In March, The Flames will travel to South Sudan who are currently bottom of Group B and a win for Meke Mwase’s men will keep alive their hopes of making it through to the main tournament.
Central to those aspirations is Charles Petro who is the only member of the current squad to play his football in Europe. At the age of just 19, Petro became just the second player from Malawi to be involved in the Champions League and, if he progresses at a similar pace, he could have an even bigger future ahead.
Football in Moldova, like that of its counterpart in Malawi, is trying to make its mark on a wider stage but it’s true to say that Charles Petro has joined the most successful club in the country. When FC Sheriff Tiraspol claimed the nation’s top flight trophy in 2019, they did so for the 18th time and that’s a comfortable domestic record. At the same period in time, closest challengers Zimbru Chisinau had eight wins and those statistics underline Tiraspol’s dominance.
When the best betting sites compile their odds for the Divizia Nationala, Sheriff can be expected to be out in front and that position is unlikely to change for some time. Teams such as Zimbru and Sparta Selemet are also in the frame but most tipsters look to Sheriff as the likely bet. The sportsbooks agree but the men from Tiraspol need to be fighting on more than one front. Success in their native Moldova is almost expected but can the team known as The Wasps make their mark on the Champions League?
That’s the next big test for a side who regularly make it through to the UCL preliminary rounds. A place in the group phase is the immediate goal and Charles Petro has his part to play as the club targets those aims.
The International Stage
If Malawi’s national team are to break ground and take their place at the Africa Cup of Nations, The Flames will need to rely on their squad’s blend of experience and talented youth. Prior to the 2021 tournament, Malawi had only qualified for AFCON twice – in 1984 and 2010 – and on both occasions they were eliminated at the end of the group stages.
As 2020 drew to a close, two games remained in qualification with that trip to South Sudan followed by a home fixture with Uganda. In all probability, Malawi will have to win both of those games and that’s a tough assignment.
Of course, while Charles Petro will have a big role to play, it isn’t all about one man. The Flames need goals and that’s not the defender’s job so the team will be looking to the experienced striker Gabadinho Mhango who has 11 goals in his first 50 international appearances while the up and coming Big Bullets attacker Hassan Kajoke has found the net twice in his first five games. Playing in big international tournaments is vital for the progress of the national side and it could also provide the platform for Charles Petro to advance his own career.
There is a lot of expectation placed on the shoulder of Charles Petro and that may be unfair when he is so young. However, he’s widely seen as an accomplished defender with maturity beyond his years and the future may see him play on an even bigger stage.
A switch to South African football may not be seen as a step up in some quarters but a number of Malawi internationals have played here. It wouldn’t be a backward step but such a promising talent should really be targeting one of the big leagues in Europe. The German Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and the English Premier League are potential destinations and, even if Petro were to sign with a club in the lower half of the table, it would be a significant breakthrough.
All of that lies in the months and years that stretch ahead and, at the age of just 19, there are some interesting possibilities for a defender who is composed on the ball and has just opened his goal account for Sheriff Tiraspol. For now, he just has to focus on developing his game in Moldova and if that development continues on an upward trajectory, the future looks exceptionally bright.