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Government rejects waiver for Saturday’s Blantyre Derby

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Joshua Malango

Ministry of Health has rejected a proposal to allow 10,000 fans to watch Saturday’s crunching TNM Super League tie between bitter rivals Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.

Action in the elite league resumed behind closed doors early this month with the Presidential Taskforce on Covid restricting public gatherings to 50 in a bid to halt the spread of the global pandemic.

The restrictions have since been eased to 250 and 100 for outdoor and indoor gatherings, respectively.

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The ministry’s spokesperson Joshua Malango said the 250 supporters’ restriction still stands because Bullets and Wanderers were late in the submission of their request.

“The Presidential Taskforce on Covid meets on Mondays to deliberate Covid issues and the two teams should have submitted their request before last Monday. So as things are now, only 250 people will be allowed into the stadium.

“Representatives of the two clubs came to seek an audience with our minister [Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda]. What came out of that meeting is that it will be difficult to allow 10,000 supporters into the stadium because it is the taskforce that decides on such matters. We will hand over the proposal to the taskforce next week for it to consider the increase in forthcoming matches,” Malango said.

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Wanderers General Secretary Fadwick Matemba and Lilongwe-based Bullets representative Austin Kasito were part of the meeting at Capital Hill on Tuesday.

Matemba said they tried their best to convince the minister but nothing worked out.

“We did all we could to reason with the ministry on the need to increase the capacity. The minister told us that she understood our request but she also asked us to consider how our request would affect the progress of combating the pandemic,” Matemba said.

Lilongwe-based football pundit George Kaudza-Masina said it will be difficult for the two teams to control supporters’ entry into the stadium.

“There should have been a special waiver of 50 percent of the stadium capacity. So under the present circumstances, organisers should be prepared to beef up security to the maximum. In the worst scenario, postponing the game altogether will be the best option. Otherwise I don’t see the leadership of the two teams convincing their supporters otherwise,” Kaudza- Masina said.

It is likely that the derby will attract the attention of millions across the country with thousands expected to turn up at the stadium.

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