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Sigh of relief

Ivory Coast to host Flames in Benin

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Alfred Gunda

Football Association of Malawi (Fam) can now heave a sigh of relief after Ivory Coast settled for Mathieu Kerekou Stadium in Cotonou, Benin, as their home ground for next month’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

This puts to rest reports that Ivory Coast were contemplating playing their home matches in France after Confederation of African Football (Caf) banned Lassane Ouattara Stadium and Yamaousoukro Stadium from hosting international matches.

Ivory Coast Football Federation indicated in an official statement that the Benin Football Federation had accepted their request to host Malawi at Mathieu Kerekou Stadium in Kouhounou district of Cotonou.

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The West African giants had initially intended to host Malawi in Morocco on October 11.

Fam General Secretary, Alfred Gunda said Benin would be ideal compared to Morocco.

“We are still waiting for communication from Caf, but travelling to Benin is manageable as flight connections are easier compared to other countries. The team will regroup month end in preparation for the qualifiers,” Gunda said.

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Malawi will host Ivory Coast at Orlando Stadium on October 6 after Caf also banned Lilongwe’s Bingu National Stadium due to poor condition of the pitch.

Mozambique are also victims of Caf’s banning of unfit stadiums and will host the Flames at Grand Stade de Tanger in Morocco in November after Caf banned Zimpeto National Stadium in Maputo.

Caf’s communication to all member associations stated that federations are required to select approved stadiums in countries of other Caf member associations— which means the qualifiers cannot be played outside Africa.

Flames coach Meck Mwase said the matches against Ivory Coast were very crucial in the qualifiers.

“We just need to make sure that all our players are in good shape ahead of the qualifiers. We will be playing to get points in all our matches so that we increase our chances of qualifying,” Mwase said.

The Flames are expected to regroup next week in preparation for back-to-back matches.

Sports analyst George Kaudza-Masina said Benin was a better option compared to Morocco or France.

”It is easier to travel to Benin compared to Morocco or France. So, this should be a relief to us,” Kaudza-Masina said.

The Flames are third in Group D with three points from two matches after a 0-2 loss to Cameroon and a 1-0 victory over Mozambique.

Ivory Coast lead the group with four points following victories over Cameroon (2- 1) and a goal-less draw with Mozambique.

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