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Sports Council speaks against commencing 2020 season

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Hope for commencement of the new football season have been dealt a heavy blow after Malawi National Council of Sports reportedly declared that the environment was not safe for lifting of the country’s sports suspension.

The declaration will likely irk football fans who had petitioned Football Association of Malawi (Fam) last month, asking for the resumption of football activities by May 30.

The fans also delivered a letter to Sports Council as they intensified their campaign to have the sports ban lifted.

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The government suspended all sports activities on March 20 when President Peter Mutharika declared a state of national disaster due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Monday, Fam presented a roadmap for the resumption of football to Sports Minister Francis Phiso who called for patience as stakeholders needed to deliberate on the matter.

But a source confided in Malawi News that a senior Sports Council official told a meeting of various stakeholders in Mangochi Friday that athletes risk contracting Covid-19 if they return to action.

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The meeting comprised representatives from Fam and ministries of Health and Sports.

The source said Sports Council questioned the availability of testing kits which are a key element in the prevention of the spread of the disease.

“The official said there will be need to test athletes before and after games. Concern was raised on the number of test kits in our sports venues for every athlete. This is what will expose our athletes to coronavirus. While appreciating that the general understanding out there is that football in particular and all other sporting disciplines in general must return, it was observed that we still have a long way to go to match our counterparts in Europe who have restarted their games.

“Their players get tested before and after matches and those who test positive are isolated. Their monitoring system is so advanced and cannot be compared to ours. So the official was skeptical about lifting the ban,” the source said.

Fam president Walter Nyamilandu presented a comprehensive proposal to Phiso in Lilongwe on how they intend to resume football in the country by August.

Sports Council Acting Executive Secretary Henry Mereka, as head of the country’s sports implementation arm, was also present during the presentation.

But he declined to comment on Friday’s meeting.

Among other things, Fam wants the number of supporters attending matches reduced and implementation of a mandatory testing of players’ body temperatures before games.

The country’s football governing body also wants observation of social distance by all stakeholders during matches.

The suspension has had adverse effects on teams which rely on gate revenue to sustain most of their operations.

Be Forward Wanderers General Secretary, Victor Maunde, said the season needed to commence as teams are enduring tough times both administratively and financially.

“Our hands are tied. We just want to go back to football again and socialise with our friends. If that worked, we would be the happiest lot. But at the same time, we are told that Covid-19 is not slowing down anytime soon. This is a dilemma for us all.

“Life continues to be a nightmare for us because we are struggling to pay our players as we have had no income generating activity since February. We are cornered from all angles. So our choices are limited,” Maunde said.

On Thursday, Fam issued a statement warning Super league teams against resuming training in any form, saying this was against the government’s ban on football suspension.

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