Football Association of Malawi (FAM) says the first match played under strict Covid-19 guidelines was a success.
Malawi drew 0-0 against Zimbabwe’s Warriors in an international friendly played without fans at Mpira Stadium in Blantyre on Sunday which marked the return of football after an eight-month ban as a preventive measure against the spread of the pandemic.
FAM Covid-19 Task Force chairperson Chimango Munthali said the match went on as planned.
He said: “We are very excited that we managed to execute our first game since the lockdown on sports. We are impressed with how everything went on. There are a number of contributing factors to the success of the execution. Firstly, thanks to all Malawians who followed the guidelines that this was a no fans game and they stayed home and watched the match on television.
“We know they love football and they would have loved to be part of this amazing experience. The second group is those in the organisation of the match, including the football teams. They all worked hard to put in place measures. We really appreciate their hardwork.”
Munthali, who is also FAM executive committee member, thanked government for approving the roadmap.
He said: “We are thankful to the government, Malawi National Council of Sports, Ministry of Health and the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 for believing in our roadmap. They came up with guidelines and we also came up with our own guidelines on how best football activities could resume. Sunday was a litmus test to demonstrate that we don’t just talk, but we walk the talk.”
Munthali, however, said being the first match, it was a learning process and there is room for improvement.
He said: “We have to reflect on the number of people that we can accommodate when playing without fans. We had an experience where just talking of the media, the television broadcaster crew for the match needed 28 people to provide good service.
“If we add the media houses that covered the match, we are talking about 50 just from the media. With the two teams having 30 members each, we are already at 110 people. If we add first aid, Ministry of Health, stewards and police, we are talking about 170 or there about.”
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda observed that FAM has a challenge to keep the numbers of people in the stadium within the required maximum as per government requirement.
He said: “Though they said this was a no fans game, I think the numbers at the stadium as seen on television should have been controlled. Remember this was just a friendly. What about a competitive match?”
But Munthali said they kept the number of people within the requirement.