While the absence of Mokotjo came as a blow, Phiri is regarded as a more than capable alternative, having spent many years abroad. However, the youngster is determined to prove that he not just a replacement for the highly coveted Dutch-based midfielder, but hopes to impress and solidify his place in the Bafana set up.
“I don’t see myself as a replacement,” Phiri told The Saturday Star.
“I am here to work and fight for the country not myself. Players get injured and that happens at club level and when you are called on, you are not a replacement but someone who is there to do the job.
“As young as I am, I am here to learn from the older and more experienced guys in terms of international football.
“It’s an honour to come to the national team. I need to push myself for future reference, to get more call-ups as I need that in my career,” Phiri said.
Due to his former club’s unwillingness to release him for the 2016 Olympics, Phiri was forced to miss out on an ideal opportunity to showcase his talents, a decision which he resents till this very day.
“No. I never understood their reasoning,” Phiri explained.
“I was really angry with them, till today. I felt like I needed that chance because it is one that comes once in a lifetime, and you never know when we can qualify for the Olympics again and if I will even make it an as over-aged player.
“This was my chance and my time. They neglected me the chance of going there,” Phiri added.
“So it was really tough for me. I had a bad spell with the club because we went back and forth. They tried showing me what the reasons were, but I still didn’t take them because I felt for me as a player, to grow my career to the next level, I needed that chance.
“It would have also helped the club as well in terms of future sales. I ended up having a great season, but I’d lost it a bit because of all that happened,” Phiri concluded.