Football Association of Malawi (Fam) has turned down Ivory Coast Football Federation’s request to play back-to-back 2022 World Cup qualifiers in one venue due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Ivorian Football Federation (FIF) requested Fam on September 21 after Confederation of African Football (Caf) banned their respective stadiums from hosting international matches.
Then, Ivorian FA had not confirmed venue for the second leg match against Malawi to Caf as it was still in discussions with Morocco and Benin while Fam had already settled for Orlando Stadium in South Africa after Bingu National Stadium failed second test.
Fam Competitions and Communications Director Gomezgani Zakazaka confirmed receipt of the request from their Ivorian counterparts and they have turned it down.
“Indeed, they wrote us but we told them that we have already confirmed our venue in South Africa,” Zakazaka said.
“It was also a risk to play our home game in Benin as we are now familiar with South Africa where we are using Orlando Stadium in Durban.”
South Africa is on red list, which means some Ivory Coast players will likely miss the trip to the Rainbow nation due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
The Elephants have several players in Europe, including Crystal Palace winger Wilfred Zaha and Manchester United defender Eric Bailey.
According to Covid-19 rules in United Kingdom, players who travel to red-list countries must observe 10- day isolation on return.
However, the Flames could face a different squad in the return leg as Benin is not among red list countries.
Flames Assistant Coach Lovemore Fazili on Thursday said there was no need to relax on the possibility of facing a depleted Ivory Coast squad in the f irst leg.
“There is no home ground advantage now. We have to prepare well for the games,” he said.
The Flames are expected to regroup next week in preparation for the first leg slated for Orlando Stadium on October 6.
By hosting Ivory Coast in South Africa, Fam will be responsible for all match details including security and match officials.
Last time Malawi played Mozambique, Fam spent about K9million on hiring the pitch. Additionally, over K27 million was spent on accommodation and food.
In November, Malawi will travel to Morocco to face Mozambique at Tanger Stadium.
Fam will likely spend more money for the Mozambique match as a return ticket to Morocco costs about K1.6 million.
The Elephants lead Group D with four points from two matches followed by Cameroon who have three points at par with Flames. Mozambique anchor the group with one point.
Top teams from each of the 10 groups will qualify for the next round of the qualifiers. Malawi has never qualified for World Cup finals.