As cases of Covid-19 infections are rising again, details have emerged that local top flight league players are no longer undergoing mandatory tests as a preventive measure.
This is in contrast to what is happening elsewhere, especially in Europe, where players undergo systematic tests monthly.
Random interviews with some players from the TNM Super League, which commenced on November 28, showed that players have not been tested again since the test they did before the start of the 2020/21 season.
Mighty Tigers Captain Boston Kabango and Civil Service United skipper Raphael Phiri said they were only having their temperatures checked.
Kabango said their temperature was measured before the start of the game.
“Covid-19 test was done once when we were about to start the season. At the moment, they check our temperature as we enter the stadium,” he said.
Phiri, on his part, said they were following Covid-19 preventive measures.
“They check our body temperature and advise us to go for further tests once we develop any Covid-19 related symptoms,” Phiri said.
Football Association of Malawi (Fam) Executive Member Chimango Munthali, who is the association’s chairperson for Special Covid-19 Taskforce, confirmed that, before every game, players and officials were having their temperatures checked.
“According to this arrangement, players and officials found with high temperature and other symptoms are advised to undergo Covid-19 test,” he said.
The development comes after some fans cried foul over double standards as some officials were not complying with Covid-19 restriction measures such as wearing of facemasks and protective wear.
In a latest incident a steward and grounds personnel at Kamuzu Stadium attracted supporters wrath after breaching Covid-19 restrictions.
A steward [name withheld] manning MBC Stand at Kamuzu Stadium during Ntopwa United and Savenda Chitipa United match on Sunday did not wear face masks when checking fans’ temperatures.
Similarly a Kamuzu Stadium worker [name withheld] did not put on protective wear when disinfecting the ground.
Interestingly this happened in full view of Munthali, whose responsibility is to monitor guidelines implementation.
However, Super League of Malawi (Sulom) President Tiya Somba Banda downplayed the issue, saying his officers could not do such a thing.
“We will investigate such cases. I don’t think our officers would come to the stadia without PPE [personal protective equipment] in the course of duty,” he said.
Football Association of Malawi (Fam) General Secretary Alfred Gunda faulted both Sulom and ground owners for the situation.
“As Fam there are things that we provide and the rest is supposed to be provided by the match organisers and the ground owners.
“We cannot provide water and soap. Even teams are supposed to bring their players in face masks just like the supporters. We cannot buy masks for them,” he said.
But, when contacted, Kamuzu Stadium Manager Irene Mkoko said she did not watch the match as she was in Lilongwe.
“I am away in Lilongwe but you can ask Sulom because we do not organise matches. All we do is provide the stadium for the games to be played,” she said.
Sports analyst George Kaudza-Masina accused Fam and Sulom of not walking the talk.
“As a country we are never serious with our football in as far as Covid-19 measures are concerned. The protocols which were put in place when Fam and Sulom were advocating the reopening of the 2020/21 season have been thrown to the dogs.
“Yes, players and officials were tested when they were starting training and it was promised that testing will be a norm before each and every game, which is not the case, providing fertile ground for the spread of the disease,” said the former Fam acting general secretary.
He said the situation was different to what happens in other leagues and called on stakeholders to revisit the programme.
“Unlike in other major leagues, testing is being conducted both during trainings and before matches to protect each other. The same applies to referees but our case is a disaster.
“It is time Fam and Sulom went to the drawing board and revisited this unfortunate situation,” Masina said.