Some TNM Super League clubs say there is need to exercise caution in the wake of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and not rush to resume football as demanded by a section of supporters.
This comes in the wake of some supporters’ move on Wednesday to give Football Association of Malawi (FAM) a cutoff point of up to May 31 to lift suspension on matches or face unspecified action.
Nyasa Big Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga said the People’s Team’s position on the matter is that games should only resume when all the stakeholders’ safety from the pandemic is guaranteed.
He said: “Safety should guide any decision to resume football. All stakeholders must be safe in all football games when they resume. That’s the position of the club.”
Be Forward Wanderers chairperson Symon Sikwese and Silver Strikers chief executive officer (CEO) Thoko Chimbali also sang the same tune.
Said Sikwese: “This is a tricky situation. Fans are hungry for soccer and this is understandable. However we still need to be wary of Covid-19 pandemic.
“We could be safer now, but things can turn around anytime. Government has put measures, but the same people preaching social distances, are involved in political rallies. Most fans are justified to express that the measures are being unfairly applied; hence, the demand that soccer too must resume.
“That said, every person must realise that whatever the situation we are in, Covid-19 is out there and it is real. Prevention from coronavirus infection must begin with us. We all want games to resume but at the same time, we must protect ourselves from coronavirus. We must accept that the pandemic has found us in the midst of a political situation, but that should be no cause to relax.”
On his part Chimbali said their position is that it is not timely to resume football considering the situation on the ground.
“We are affiliated to Sulom [Super League of Malawi] and by extension to FAM. As a club we are bound and guided by their direction. As a club, we understand the urge by many to resume the season considering that football forms an integral part of our daily lives.
“However, we need to understand that where football has resumed, there are very stringent measures that might not work for Malawi football, which include playing in an empty stadium, a sharp contrast to what the supporters want.
“Still more, on an assumption that the supporters would observe social [physical] distance, the enforcement would be tedious and costly [deployment of security personnel].”
Blue Eagles chairperson Alexander Ngwala said their position is that it is not yet safe to resume matches.
He said: “We are not yet safe because Covid-19 cases are still increasing day by day. However, we depend on FAM and Sulom to guide us on the way forward.”.
Malawi Health Equity Network (MEHN) executive director George Jobe said it is not proper to resume sporting activities, let alone football, “as they draw large crowds and defeat social distance requirements”.
Said Jobe: “It would be better to wait. Our standard measuring yardstick should not be the three deaths registered in Malawi only, but also how people are dying globally.
“We should just count ourselves lucky for not registering huge numbers of deaths as is the case in other countries. And when it comes to numbers, we should consider if it is only Malawi with such numbers and banning sporting activities. Is 71 a small number and is it the right figure with a positive status? It’s possible that some people might not have been tested.”
In presenting the petition to FAM on behalf of the supporters, Bullets supporters committee secretary Mabvuto Chibambo said time had come for the local football governing body to consider lifting the suspension just like other social activities have done.
He said: “When FAM decided to suspend football in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic we understood. As supporters, we accepted the directive and followed the precautionary measures set by government . Three months later, political parties have started organising rallies involving thousands of people.
“We are not saying Covid-19 is not dangerous. It is dangerous just like other diseases. But in three months [only] three people have died. As such, we feel we can still have football matches even when there is coronavirus because the threat is not so big.”
In response, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said the FAM Covid-19 task force and competitions subcommittee will meet today to draw up a proposal that will include the supporters’ petition to be presented to government.
As of yesterday, the country had registered 82 Covid-19 cases and three deaths.