Confederation of African Football (CAF) has shifted Malawi’s 2019 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying matches from March to September 2018.
This follows a petition from African teams that have qualified for the Russia World Cup to take place from June 14 to 15 July 2018—Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Senegal and Tunisia.
Led by Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick, the teams requested CAF to allow them to use the period between now and June to play international friendlies to prepare for the World Cup.
Following the changes, Malawi will now play Morocco in October and not March, throwing Malawi’s preparations for the match in disarray.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary Alfred Gunda said the development changes the association’s plans.
He said: “We had a plan drawn up on the team’s preparations, but after the changes, we obviously have to adjust. Instead of just three months remaining before the match, we now have 10 months. The first thing are the finances. We will, obviously, need more funds for the preparations. Initially, the match was in the current financial year, but now it is in the next one and we did not anticipate that.”
Gunda said they will meet Flames technical committee next week on the way forward.
“We need to discuss what will happen between now and September,” he said.
Malawi will now have to prepare for back-to-back matches between September and November.
The Flames play Morocco (home-and-away), Cameroon (home-and-away) and to Comoros islands.
Analyst Charles Nyirenda said Malawi is now in a tricky situation.
“The World Cup will be played between June and July and the qualifiers come just a month later. This means Morocco will be busy while we would have been idle during this period.
“Our only consolation is that we will play the Cosafa Cup between June and July. But this is not good enough because we will not have a full squad as it has been the case in the past that foreign-based players are not available for this tournament.”
However, Nyirenda said Flames coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) now has ample time to prepare for the qualifiers.
He said: “We have seen that our national team is far from being ready to face high-profile teams such as Cameroon and Morocco. RVG should be happy because the change gives him another eight months to prepare.”
Malawi are joint leaders with Cameroon in Group B, with three points each. Malawi beat third-placed Comoros 1-0 while Cameroon beat fourth-placed Morocco by the same margin.