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Sports

Silent return

Fans back at matches despite government restrictions

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Albert Chigoga

Football fans are slowly creeping back into stadia to watch matches, rendering the government’s ban ineffective.

The Presidential Taskforce on Covid announced a ban on spectators at all sports activities in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus.

The taskforce only allowed a maximum of 100 people at each match, mainly players, referees and officials.

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However, the restrictions seem to have failed as supporters are finding their way back into match venues for both cup and league games.

In one recent example, scores of supporters witnessed the FDH Bank Cup quarterfinal between Silver Strikers and Nyasa Big Bullets at Silver Stadium in Lilongwe on Wednesday.

Most of the fans sat on open stands with very few of them wearing facemasks and observing social distance.

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They mingled freely and celebrated goals as they did before restrictions were imposed.

In another unfortunate incident about three weeks ago, some supporters forced their way into the TNM Super League match between Bullets and Silver at Kamuzu Stadium.

This comes at a time Covid continues to claim lives in all sectors across the country.

As of Wednesday, the pandemic had claimed 2,012 lives with 14 being new deaths. Some 396 new cases had been recorded, 29 of them being admitted to treatment units.

The country has about 270 people admitted in treatment units with 12,312 being active cases.

Silver Chief Executive Officer Thokozani Chimbali said they had delivered a clear message to their supporters on coming to the stadium for matches.

“We, as Silver, are so explicit when it comes to attendance. We are discouraging our supporters from coming to the stadium,” Chimbali said.

Bullets Chief Administrator Albert Chigoga described the situation as unfortunate.

“Police are engaged to offer security at all football matches. One of their tasks is to enforce adherence to Covid preventive measures. The question I am asking them is why do they allow people into stadia when it is clear that they are not supposed to?

“We, as clubs, have adequately sensitised our supporters to the need to stay away from match venues until the government lifts the restrictions. I blame security and match organisers. They need to do more to stop this from happening,” Chigoga said.

Mighty Wanderers acting Chief Executive Officer Chancy Gondwe also described the development as sad but referred us to his supporters’ chairperson Mervin Nkunika, who did not respond to calls and WhatsApp messages.

Football Association of Malawi (Fam) has also shown willingness to stop fans from attending matches by putting up reminders on posters for FDH Bank Cup matches.

Fam’s poster for the Wednesday match clearly read: “No stadium attendance.”

Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said they expect the police to act as the preventive measures were gazzetted and became law.

“The taskforce has not yet met to review the restrictions. We therefore expect the police to continue enforcing the measures. We do not have the capacity to stop supporters from patronising matches. So we hope the police are doing the needful,” Chikumbe said.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said he needed to crosscheck with his colleagues.

“I have not been to any football match since the measures were announced. But we will arrest anyone who is allowing supporters to watch matches. Any supporter forcing his way into a match venue is also committing a crime. The restrictions are still there. Nothing has changed,” Kadadzera said.

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