Football fans threw caution to the wind, ignoring Covid-19 guidelines during some 2020/21 TNM Super League opening matches at the weekend.
When government, through the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 approved the attendance of spectators at football matches, it stressed that Covid-19 preventive measures would have to be strictly adhered to.
But during the launch match between champions Nyasa Big Bullets and Blue Eagles at Kamuzu Stadium and Mzuzu Warriors against Be Forward Wanderers at Mzuzu Stadium, the fans only complied with the guidelines upon entry into the stadia, before doing business as usual.
Physical distancing was not observed and most of the fans took off their face masks to freely cheer their teams.
Super League of Malawi (Sulom) vice-general secretary Zachariah Nyirenda confirmed in an interview with The Nation yesterday that adherence to the measures by most of the fans proved to be a challenge.
He said: “We also observed that. Physical distancing was not being observed and masks were taken off.
“In enforcing the guidelines, we are working with the police and stewards, but it’s not something that can be implemented 100 percent because some fans have reservations on the measures.
“They are of the view that if people freely go to markets, music festivals, weddings and other social gatherings without Covid-19 restrictions, they see no reason to adhere to the guidelines at football matches.
“Nevertheless, we are trying our best to ensure that the guidelines are being strictly adhered to.”
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) licencing and compliance manager Casper Jangale also acknowledged the challenge.
He said: “It has come to our attention that inside the stadia, most of the fans were disregarding the preventive measures.
“But then it has to be understood that this is being done for their own safety. It is not for Sulom or FAM.
“Anyway, we will continue to engage the fans on the need to follow the measures. Since it was only the first round of matches, we hope that as we go along, they will adhere to the measures.”
Jangale also said they plan to use the public address systems during matches to civic educate the fans.
Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga said they are working with their supporters leadership to enforce physical distancing during matches.
In an interview yesterday, Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said they are keenly monitoring fans and clubs’ conduct at football matches as regards Covid-19 guidelines.
“We hope that FAM and Sulom are on top of things in ensuring that the guidelines are being followed as stipulated in the Football Restart Roadmap,” he said.
Feston Kaliza, a fan who watched the Bullets versus Eagles match, said as a tradition, he had to join his fellow supporters at the Biafra Stand where physical distancing was not observed.
“I was so excited that I could not resist the temptation of joining my fellow fans to cheer our team without bothering about physical distancing because we missed the game a lot. Tisafinyike biggie, olo mutakhala inu mungachemerere bwanji ndi chi mask kukamwa…Ndife ma police dog ifeyo? [even if it were you, how would you cheer with your face mask on. Are we police dogs]?”