The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic which has resulted in suspension of contact sports has cast doubt on possibility of the country hosting football cup competitions this year.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary Alfred Gunda yesterday in an interview said it was not a matter of when the EcoBank Charity Shield, FDH Cup and Airtel Top 8 competitions will be staged, but rather if at all it will be feasible to stage them.
He said: “At the moment, the issue is not about when we will stage these cup competitions. Football is not even there now. So, it is about whether they will be played at all.
“Remember, our plans were laid down before the second wave of the pandemic. Can we say when they [cup competitions] will be played? The answer is no. We cannot say that now.
“The Charity Shield was supposed to be played mid-season but the suspension of football means we don’t even know when the mid-season will come. The same applies to the other competitions.”
Even if government lifts the suspension on gatherings of more than 50 people to pave way for football to return, Gunda said there are other factors that need to be sorted out.
He said: “What we are saying is all competitions will have to be revisited on the feasibility of staging them this season. For instance, when we were planning for the Charity Shield, we were talking of playing with fans.
“The Charity Shield is used to raise funds through gate revenue for charity cause. The question is can we still play the Charity Shield without fans and achieve our objective? These are the issues that have to be considered. We have to go back to the drawing board and look at the pros and cons.”
FAM’s position comes after the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 listed sports events as one of the high risk areas for Covid-19 transmission.
But soccer analyst Kelvin Moyo is of the view that football should still be played regardless of the status of the pandemic.
He said: “The world over football is still being played without supporters. Right now in Europe and even South Africa where they are on lockdown football is still being played.”
Moyo called on FAM to lobby government to allow football to be played so that the cup competitions can be staged.
He said: “FAM should engage Ministry of Sports and the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 on how football can still be played regardless of the Covid-19,” he said.
FAM Covid-19 Task Force chairperson Chimango Munthali said the association will continue engaging government on the safest way to play football amid the pandemic.
FAM was supposed to stage EcoBank Charity Shield at the beginning of the season, but the competition, which traditionally marks the kick-off of the season, was rescheduled to mid-season.
Next on the line up was the Airtel Top 8 competition participated by teams that finished within the top eight bracket in the previous TNM Super League season.
With sponsors having already withdrawn the Fisd Challenge Cup sponsorship, the last cup competition scheduled for this year is the newly-introduced FDH Cup, which was supposed to be played during the second round of the season.
However, since football is suspended for three weeks and FAM is not sure whether government will allow the return of football with supporters, the association says it cannot confirm whether the cup competitions will be played at all.