Malawi National Football Team has been dealt a big blow after nine players tested positive for coronavirus before this year’s Cosafa Cup starts on Tuesday next week.
The Flames are expected to depart on Sunday for the tournament, which runs from July 6 to 18 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
However, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) announced Tuesday that nine out of 34 Malawi-based players and assistant coach Bob Mpinganjira did not join camp after they tested positive for coronavirus.
The nine players include Silver Strikers trio of goalkeeper Brighton Munthali, midfielder Chikondi Kamanga and striker Stain Dave and Nyasa Big Bullets defender Gomezgani Chirwa.
Mighty Wanderers duo of Yamikani Chester and Peter Cholopi, Karonga United midfielder Antony Mfune, Mafco’s Paul Ndhlovu and Blue Eagles striker Gaddie Chirwa have also tested positive for coronavirus.
All the players and Mpinganjira are asymptomatic and are self-isolating.
Fam Competitions and Communication Director Gomezgani Zakazaka said the association will continue monitoring the individuals after the senior side regrouped on Tuesday.
“All the players and officials underwent PCR tests while at home and those that tested negative are the ones that have gone into camp,” Zakazaka said.
“We will be following up with all the positive cases to see who will recover in time for the trip to Cosafa Cup. It is a big blow but we will have to work with the players that are available and no new players will be called into camp.”
Zakazaka added that coach Meck Mwase will continue with his self-isolation pending his follow-up test to be done later this week.
The development means assistant coach Lovemore Fazili will be in charge of the team until Mwase returns.
As it is, Fazili has 25 local players in camp, with Tawonga Chimodzi as the only foreign country-based player, having joined camp on Tuesday morning.
Mozambique-based duo of Ndaziona Chatsalira and Schumacher Kuwali is expected to join the team on Wednesday.
Striker Khuda Muyaba and defender Dennis Chembezi will join the squad in South Africa.
Football consultant Kevin Moyo said it was a big blow.
“We need to be careful and follow all Covid protocols. Let us not relax,” he said.
The Flames are in Group B alongside Zambia, Madagascar and Comoros Islands.
Malawi will start Cosafa Cup against Madagascar on July 7 at Isaac Wolfson Stadium before meeting Comoros three days later at the same venue.
The team will wrap-up group stages with a date against defending champions Zambia at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on July 13.
Malawi has never won the Cosafa Cup but finished as runners-up in 2002 and 2003.