Flames coach Ernest Mtawali has said he will not release players for club duty this coming weekend once he names his final squad for next Wednesday’s 2018 Fifa World Cup preliminary first-leg qualifier against Tanzania’s Taifa Stars.
The development could affect local football powerhouses—Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers—who are scheduled to meet this Saturday in the latest episode of the Blantyre derby.
Mtawali fears that his players could pick injuries as the weekend games are too close to the Flames’ mid-week away fixture.
“It would be a big gamble to release the players for the weekend games considering that we will face Tanzania barely three to four days later.
“In all fairness, we cannot afford to toy around with such a gamble and it is my hope that all stakeholders, in particular FAM [Football Association of Malawi] and Sulom [Super League of Malawi] will find an alternative,” he said.
The Flames mentor also said Fifa rules stipulate that clubs are supposed to release players for national duty at least five days prior to a match.
He added: “I am aware that teams cannot afford to play without their key players, especially when the big one [Blantyre derby] is around the corner, but we also have to consider national interests as well.”
Mtawali is set to release his final squad on Thursday. Sulom rules stipulate that a team can only be exempted from a fixture if it contributes four or more players to the Flames.
Wanderers and Bullets have contributed seven and four players respectively to the Flames squad, but it is very unlikely that any of the two teams will provide four players or more in the final squad which could necessitate a postponement.
Sulom GS Williams Banda yesterday said it would be difficult for them to make a determination in the absence of official communication from FAM.
“The final squad has also not been released. However, in as far as we are concerned, the games are on and we shall stick to the FAM calendar.
“There are rules that govern contribution of players to the national team and we’ll go by the rules. Otherwise, we’ll have to be advised by FAM,” said Banda.
FAM GS Suzgo Nyirenda on Tuesday said they were expected to map the way forward yesterday after meeting the Flames technical panel.
“First, the technical panel will have to give us a hint on their tentative local squad and if there will be need to exempt one team based on contribution of players then we will have to seek Sulom’s direction and guidance because the powers of administering the league is sorely in their hands,” said Nyirenda.
He added: “Afterall, the league has its Rules and Regulations.”
However, both Bullets and Wanderers say they are not prepared to play the derby without their cream.
Said Bullets vice-general secretary Kelvin Moyo: “Of course, the national coach has a point, but we cannot afford to play such an important game without any of our key players, not even minus one.
“My suggestion is that all the concerned parties should reach a consensus.”
On his part, Nomads general secretary Mike Butao said: “Even if a team contributes one player, then obviously for that player to be selected , he must be exceptional. It’s not about the numbers, it’s the principle.
“Our position is that any team with even a single player with the national team is disadvantaged and should not be given a competitive game to play.”n