Malawi national football team’s Cosafa Cup preparations have been dealt a blow after nine of the 39 local players and second assistant coach Bob Mpinganjira tested positive for Covid-19 four days before the teams leaves for South Africa.
Silver Strikers trio of goalkeeper Brighton Munthali, midfielder Chikondi Kamanga and striker Stain Dave, Nyasa Big Bullets defender Gomezgani Chirwa, Mighty Wanderers duo of Yamikani Chester and Peter Cholopi, Karonga United midfielder Anthony Mfune and Blue Eagles striker Gaddie Chirwa have all tested position for the virus.
Coach Meck Mwase is yet to be re-tested after testing positive two weeks ago while assistant coach Lovemore Fazili, who also tested positive, is back with the team after testing negative.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) will now have to find replacements since those that test positive are supposed to undergo mandatory 10 to 14 days isolation.
The association’s competitions and communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka said FAM will continue monitoring the team members and those that will recover will be available for consideration.
He said: “All the players and officials underwent the tests while at home and those that tested negative are the ones that have gone into camp.
“It is a big blow, but we will have to work with the players that are available and no new players will be called into camp.”
The development means 25 out of 39 local players plus Tawonga Chimodzi, have reported for camp.
Mozambique-based duo of Ndaziona Chatsalira and Schumacher Kuwali are expected to join the team on Wednesday while striker Khuda Muyaba and defender Dennis Chembezi will join the squad in South Africa.
The regional showpiece will be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa from July 7 to 18.
The Flames are in Group B alongside Zambia’ Chipolopolo, Comoros and Madagascar.
The Flames are expected to use the tournament to prepare for the upcoming Qatar World Cup qualifiers and the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
“This will be a very crucial tournament as it will help us to gauge our performance for the two competitions,” said Fazili.
According to a statement from Cosafa, the top team in each group and the best placed runner-up will advance to the semi-finals in what is a change in formation for the tournament this year.