Malawi under-17 national football team players are set to miss out on classes for almost a month when the side takes part in the Cosafa Youth Championship which the country hosts from October 11 to 20.
The first term of the 2019/20 academic year officially opened Monday in all schools across the country.
There have been concerns on the timing of the regional tournament which falls at a time school will be in session.
Such concerns compelled Botswana to withdraw from the competition to allow their players to attend classes.
According to Cosafa’s website, Botswana have been replaced by eSwatini.
“Botswana have cited issues relating to school examinations for their players as the reason for their withdrawal. Eswatini have stepped in and are delighted to be sending a team to the competition, having been a regular participant at this age group level in the past,” the website reports.
Football Association of Malawi (Fam) General Secretary, Alfred Gunda, said the association was exercising caution as the country prepares to host the event it last staged in 2001.
“The team will be reconvening this coming week. We are mindful that the players have to first register for the start of the academic year. On top of football, they have respective futures we also have to be mindful of,” Gunda said.
Meanwhile, Fam Technical Director, John Kaputa, has said they were exploring possibilities to enable the players to engage in part-time classes so that they do not miss out much on their studies.
Kaputa said Fam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Malawi School Sports Association (Massa) which gives them an opportunity to access educational services through the Blantyre District Education Office.
“This is why we decided to shift camp to early next week because we want the players to register at their respective schools. We are aware that some have changed classes and others might have changed schools as well. So this week is for them to register.
“On arrival in camp, each player is also expected to present a consent letter from their respective headmaster and parents or guardians. Then we will talk with Massa using the MoU we signed to see how best the players can be assisted to avoid missing out on their studies,” he said.
Kaputa said the scenario would have been different had the competition been held in August and September.
Massa General Secretary, Blackson Malamula, said Fam would be assisted on the matter because it was an issue of national interest.
“We can arrange for that once we have full details of their training schedule. This is an issue of national interest but we also need to help the players realise their educational aspirations,” Malamula said.
Football analyst Higger Mkandawire said the matter was tricky since Malawi were hosting the event.
“Botswana should be applauded for withdrawing their team in the interest of the young players’ education. In an ideal situation, Malawi should have just withdrawn from the competition. But the tricky part is where we are hosting. There isn’t much that Fam can do apart from just ensuring that the players are helped academically so that they do not lose out,” Mkandawire said.
However, Mkandawire expressed concern that the team would struggle in the competition because of inadequate preparations.
“Look at our preparations. We have not done enough to win. The players need help for them to impress,” he said.
Malawi last hosted the event in 2001 when the likes of Robert Ng’ambi, Grant Lungu and Mapopa Msukwa fired the team to glory.