Confederation of African Football (CAF) has drafted 2022 Afcon qualifiers new Covid-19 regulations which state that a game can take place as long as each team has a minimum of 11 players, with no substitutes.
The new Covid-19 regulation replaces the old one which stipulated that a match can only take place if both teams have a minimum of 11 players, including a goalkeeper and four substitutes.
According to the regulations, which will apply when Malawi plays South Sudan away on March 24 and at home against Uganda on March 29, if a team does not have the minimum number of players to play a match, it risks losing the match 2-0.
The regulations mean a team does not need to have a goalkeeper for a match to go ahead, meaning in-field players must replace the goalkeeper if all of them test positive for Covid-19.
The change is in response to matches failing to take place because players have tested positive for Covid-19.
The regulations further read: “The mandatory PCR test should be conducted no earlier than 48 hours before the match participants access the stadium. Results shall be available two hours before departure to the stadium on the match day.
“The host federation is responsible for the payment of the test of the match officials and its delegation. The host country shall reimburse the match officials the cost of PCR done before travelling upon presentation of the supporting documents.
“The visiting team covers the cost of the PCR test of all its delegation at all times. In case of a match played in neutral ground, the initial host of the match is considered as the host country in terms of financial coverage.”
In his reaction, soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda observed that the new regulation, though harsh, will ensure the deciding matches of the 2022 Afcon qualification go as planned.
He said: “After postponing the qualifiers three times due to Covid-19, I think CAF doesn’t want to take chances anymore. They don’t want games to be postponed anymore because if the qualifiers are not concluded, it will mean changing the calendar again.”
Nyirenda advised Football Association of Malawi (FAM) to ensure as many players are tested and put on stand-by in case others test positive at the eleventh hour.
Meanwhile, the Flames are expected to regroup this week at Mpira Village in Chiwembe, Blantyre in preparation for the qualifiers.
FAM competitions and communication director Gomezgani Zakazaka said the players underwent Covid-19 test last week.
He said: “The players underwent the test in their respective regions. We could have released the names of the players last week. But the coach [Meck Mwase] will look at the results first before releasing the names of players that will go into camp.”
Group winners and runners up will qualify for the final to be held in Cameroon and the battle for qualification is still open in all groups.
Malawi, which is in Group B, has four points from a 1-0 victory over South Sudan and a draw against Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso lead the group with eight points; Uganda is second with seven while South Sudan is at the bottom with three points.