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More playground misery for Flames

Flames to face Ivory Coast, Mozambique in Morocco

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Alfred Gunda

Football Association of  Malawi (Fam) and the  government will dig deeper into their pockets as the Flames will face Ivory Coast and Mozambique in Morocco during  the second leg of 2022 Group D World Cup qualifiers.

This comes after Confederation of African Football (Caf) banned Lassane Ouattara Stadium [in Abidjan, Ivory Coast] and Zimpeto National Stadium [in Maputo, Mozambique] as unfit to host World Cup qualifiers.

Ivory Coast is yet to confirm the home stadium for the upcoming match against Flames on October 6 but reports suggest that the country has opted for Morocco.

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The Flames will host ‘The Elephants’ at Orlando Stadium in South Africa after Caf did not uplift the ban on Bingu National Stadium. This means that Fam must revise its budget for the qualifiers.

The association had budgeted K1.4 billion for the World Cup qualifiers and Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.

Fam General Secretary Alfred Gunda admitted that travelling to Morocco was complicated.

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“It is a big challenge for us because it is not easy to fly to Morocco. Sometimes, due to connections, you fly to Europe before arriving in Morocco. We had a budget of travelling to Mozambique but everything has changed. This will obviously affect the budget,” Gunda said.

A return air ticket to Morocco costs about K1.6 million per person whereas a ticket to Mozambique costs K600,000.

It means Fam will spend almost three times more than its projected budget.

In addition, the hotels might be expensive in Morocco compared to Mozambique.

Ministry of Youth and Sports spokesperson Allie Kalichero was confident that funds would be available for the Flames.

“We requested for extra funds from the Ministry of Finance considering such situations. Discussions are underway and we are optimistic that funds would be available for the team,” Kalichero said.

By hosting Mozambique at Orlando Stadium, Fam spent more than K9 million on hiring the pitch and over K20 million on air tickets and accommodation.

Mozambique Football Federation (FMF) Vice President Matinho Mucuana told the FA website that Morocco offered better conditions including the pitch and convenience for Europe-based players.

Mozambique FA also held negotiations with Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia before choosing Morocco.

The Mambas hosted Ivory Coast at Zimpeto National Stadium in the opening match of the World Cup qualifiers which ended in a goal-less stalemate.

Sports analyst George Kaudza-Masina said Mambas’ choice of Stade de Tanger in Morocco was tactical and aimed at confusing the Flames.

“The gods of football seem not to be favouring Chiwembe [Fam]. That Mozambique has decided to choose Morocco as their home-ground is going to be tough financially for Fam,” he said.

“Fam is financially crippled and travelling to Morocco, instead of Maputo, is making things difficult for our World Cup qualifiers campaign.”

Ivory Coast top Group D with four points from two matches, having registered a 2-1 win over Cameroon and a goal-less draw against Mozambique.

Cameroon are second with three points, at par with third-placed Malawi.

However, the Indomitable Lions defeated Malawi 2-0 in their opening match.

The Flames claimed a 1-0 win over the Mambas courtesy of Richard Mbulu at Orlando Stadium, South Africa.

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