Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu has hinted at the possibility of resuming football in empty stadia should cases of Covid-19 pandemic continue to rise.
For the past weeks, the Covid-19 cases have been rising rapidly with 1 742 confirmed cases by yesterday and 19 deaths.
He said: “It all depends on the specified capacity and how we enforce strict social distancing measures. Playing behind closed doors is also an option depending on the circumstances.”
Nyamilandu’s change of tune comes barely a week after FAM snubbed Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) recommendation for member associations to hold closed matches when football returns.
He argued that it would be difficult for local clubs to play in empty stadia since they depend on gate collections for their operations.
However, Be Forward Wanderers chairperson Symon Sikwese and Nyasa Big Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga said clubs would need financial support towards their operations if they were to play in empty stadia.
Said Sikwese: “Playing in an empty stadium would be a nonstarter. This is Malawi and any decision on resumption of games must take into consideration the financial status of clubs as they mainly depend on gate revenue.”
On his part, Chigoga said: “At the rate cases of Covid-19 are rising, for the safety of all football-loving Malawians, let football resume under the most strict safety measures.
“However, playing in empty stadiums means no gate revenue for our clubs. There should be plans to support teams financially.”
Civil Service (Civo) United general secretary (GS) Ronald Chiwaula said: “I definitely agree with the suggestion that if we are to start, then it should be behind closed doors.
“Unless we explore more convincing and protective measures, which I doubt as a country that we can manage, it would be a risk to allow supporters to watch the games, thus putting the lives of people at risk.”
On his part, Karonga United GS Ramzy Simwaka said: “Yes indeed, cases are rising day by day and I think FAM, Sulom and clubs need to meet urgently to map the way forward. Otherwise, the situation is getting scary.”
On Sunday, President Lazarus Chakwera cancelled yesterday’s Independence Day celebrations that were scheduled for Bingu National Stadium in the wake of Covid-19 rising cases.
Last week, the Ministry of Health said the rapid rise of Covid-19 cases, poses a threat on plans to resume sport as proposed by some associations.