The cancellation of the 2020 football season due to the Covid-19 pandemic has raised fears that it will be a tall order for the already dwindling standards of football in the country to recover from the effects of the year-long break.
However, Football Association Malawi (FAM) Covid-19 Task Force has called for calm as it works on how best to recover from the long break at whatever time it will be possible.
FAM last week announced that Malawi would not take part in international competitions this year before dropping the bombshell on the season being cancelled after government gazzeted new Covid-19 laws that banned public gatherings of over 10 people, making football restart impossible.
Though some members of the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) such as Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Lesotho are also in the same boat, there is fear that Malawi is among those to be worst affected since it does not have many players in Europe where football is in full swing.
Coach Meck Mwase has hugely relied on up-and-coming locally-based players alongside a handful of foreign-based players such as Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango, Gerald Phiri Jnr (South Africa) Charles Petro (Modolva) and Yamikani Chester (USA).
Soccer analysts have observed that there is need for the country to prepare for the worst since the local players will be out of action for a full year.
Charles Nyirenda, a former FAM general secretary, observed that the long break will send Malawi football, several steps backwards.
“I cannot start talking of the financial implications on clubs because that is something we all know as we can already see how our clubs are struggling. I can foresee some clubs folding.
“But the worst will be the standards of football themselves because the season break is sending us back several steps. It’s like you were at zero and now you are heading to negative. We are in trouble,” he said.
Another analyst George Chiusiwa said he is yet to hear from FAM what measures it will put in place to ensure football recovers from the lost time.
“Malawi’s football standards are already poor for we have set the standards very low in the first place. Recovery of the already dwindled standards after eight months without Super League football, requires a lot. Simply put, it’s very difficult to recover the standards in terms of play,” he said.
Chiusiwa said with a ban on public gathering in place, football authorities should concentrate on the individual player.
He said: “In Malawi we depend so much on collective organisation of players for their development or to sustain their performance. Little do we invest or focus on individual development and sustainability of player performance.
“Self and individual performance enhancing facilities like gyms, small community grounds and adequate player equipment are in very adequate supply. This means that players rely on the main club facilities to individually enhance or sustain their performances.”
“With the inactivity of the game due to Covid-19 and the closure of club facilities most players are idle while a few are using substandard or ill equipped locally available facilities to keep fit or sustain such important essentials like speed, stamina and suppleness which are critical in football. This will also affect their technical productivity.”
The worst affected by the season-long break are the already struggling TNM Super League clubs who have been paying their players for eight months without action.
The country’s top three clubs—Nyasa big Bullets, Silver Strikers and Be Forward Wanderers—spend about K20 million each on their monthly wage bill.
Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga said the cancellation of the season will pile more pressure on the team’s finances.
“It is something that we have always been dreading. Paying players for a whole season without playing football is going to take a toll on us,” he said.
Though FAM, through its Covid-19 Relief Fund, is paying K40 000 to players up to December, Chigoga said the money is not enough.
“What is K40 000 these days?,” he said.
For clubs such as Mighty Tigers, there are fears of them dying a natural death.
Tigers co-director Robin Alufandika called for well-wishers to rescue the team.
“As you are aware we do not have any sponsor. We are pleading with well-wishers to help us. We really need their support in these hard times,” he said.
FAM Covid-19 Task Force chairperson Chimango Munthali said the association is aware of the implications of the situation.
He said: “We know there will be consequences. But remember this is a situation where we have to follow what the law says. We submitted out roadmap to football resumption and what we are saying is it will be difficult to play football this year under the new laws.
“But our roadmap is still relevant. It’s an ongoing process. Through it we will address the concerns raised on how teams, players and other stakeholders will survive in the period there is no football and on how to recover from the long break. We will keep on working on how to improve it.”