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Busy schedule for Flames

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A busy schedule awaits Malawi national football team in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers with double-headers from November this year to November 2021.

This follows resolutions made by Confederation of African Football (Caf) on Wednesday.

The continent’s football governing body suspended the Afcon qualifiers in March when the Flames were set to travel to Burkina Faso.

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The suspension was made as a precautionary measure against the Covid-19 outbreak.

Caf has notified all member associations through a press statement that the qualifiers will be played between November 9 and 17 this year.

This means that the Flames will face Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou on November 9 and play the return match on November 17.

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The statement indicates that Malawi will then play South Sudan back-to-back between March 22 and 30 next year.

The statement also disclosed that the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers will commence in March 2021.

“Reference to the decision of the Caf executive committee, during it’s meeting held on the 30th June 2020 to postpone the final tournament of the Total Africa Cup Of Nations, Cameron 2021 to January 2022 we would like to communicate to you the new dates of the qualifiers of Afcon 2021and Fifa World Cup 2022,” reads part of the statement.

A report on Caf’s website further reads: “The 40 teams in contention for the five slots for Qatar 2022 will commence the journey between 31 May and 15 June 2021 with the Day 1 & 2 matches. From 30 August till 7 September, the day three and four matches are expected to take place with day five and six matches fixed for 4-12 October 2021.

“The playoff matches have been scheduled for 8-16 November 2021. Meanwhile, Caf is monitoring the situation closely and working with the relevant authorities with regards to hosting of the matches, and will make pronouncements accordingly in the event of developments that will affect playing a match at the designated venue.”

Flames Coach Meck Mwase said he would meet Football Association of Malawi officials to map out the way forward.

“The games are just eight weeks away. We need to plan well but the good thing is that some of our players have returned to action in South Africa. So we will see what to do. Most of our players are local-based, therefore we stand to benefit a lot if our 2020 season can kick off,” Mwase said.

Football Association of Malawi Competitions and Communications Director, Gomezgani Zakazaka, said they will release a program on the forthcoming international competitions.

“We have indeed received communication from Caf on the 2021 Afcon qualifiers and the 2022 Fifa World Cup. For now, we are still waiting to hear from government on the commencement of the new season. We will have something to say once we meet government officials on the matter,” Zakazaka said.

However, soccer analyst George Chiusiwa has advised Fam to call players into camp while waiting for government approval on the 2020 season’s kick off.

“Fam should consider calling Flames players into camp immediately. Local players have spent almost eight months without playing football. This means it will not be easy for them to match their opponents in terms of fitness.

“Caf has done well to communicate to member associations about the games in good time. It means we have two months of preparations. Calling players into camp will not breach Covid-19 safety measures because the Flames squad accommodates less than 50 players at a time,” Chiusiwa said.

Flames are in Group D of the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers alongside Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Mozambique.

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