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Covid attacks Flames again

The Flames training

By Mabvuto Kambuwe

Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, have suffered a setback after four players tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, just a day before the team left for Saudi Arabia for a 10-day camp enroute to Cameroon.

Sources indicate that the players are Nyasa Big Bullets defenders Sankhani Mkandawire, Gomezgani Chirwa and midfielder Chimwemwe Idana.

The three players will remain in isolation.

The team also suffered another setback yesterday when goalkeeper William Thole and two officials also tested positive for Covid-19 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, enroute to Saudi Arabia.

It meant that Thole was the fourth player to test positive for Covid. Silver Strikers goalkeeper Brighton Munthali, who was on standby, has been recalled to replace Thole who remained in Ethiopia.

The source also revealed that one member from Football Association of Malawi (Fam) secretariat, who was also supposed to travel with the team on Thursday, also tested positive for Covid-19.

However, details were still sketchy as we went to press yesterday.

Fam officials did not answer our calls.

However, inside sources yesterday confided that the players were in isolation but could be included in the squad to Cameroon if they test negative.

“At first, they tested negative on Sunday before joining camp but we did not take chances and we put them in isolation. But after another test on Thursday, they tested positive for Covid-19. They will remain in isolation while the doctor is monitoring their situation,” said the source.

Leader of delegation Chimango Munthali was yet to respond to our questionnaire yesterday.

The other group, comprising five players and officials, was expected to leave yesterday.

The last group of players comprising captain Limbikani Mzava, Gerald Phiri Junior, Gabadinho Mhango and Peter Banda will leave today.

Fam Technical Director Marian Mario Marinica, who will lead the team, named a 30-member provisional squad for Saudi Arabia trip.

But some players, including Tawonga Chimodzi, Richard Chipuwa and Vincent Nyangulu are on standby.

Sports analyst George Kaudza-Masina said there is no need to panic.

“That is why we need a bigger squad in case of Covid-19 cases,” Kaudza- Masina said.

Malawi will camp in Saudi Arabia for 10 days before travelling to Cameroon for Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to be staged from January 9 to February 6.

The Flames, who are making a third appearance at the continental showpiece, are in Group B alongside top ranked team in Africa Senegal, Guinea and Zimbabwe.

In the opening match, the Flames will meet Guinea before playing Zimbabwe four days later. They will wrap up the group stages campaign against Senegal on January 18.

In 2010, the Flames exited the tournament in the group stages with one win over Algeria but lost two matches to Mali and Angola.

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