The anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), targeting the shutdown of airports and borders from August 26 to 30, have not spared the football fraternity.
There is uncertainty on whether Kenya, who are expected to play Malawi women’s national football team in Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifiers first leg at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Wednesday August 28, will make it in and out of the country.
The Harambee Starlets are supposed to arrive on August 27 for the match and leave on August 29, but if HRDC goes ahead with the planned demonstrations, which may disrupt flights and lead to border closures, the Kenyans’ itinerary will be affected.
Reports indicate the Kenyans are keeping fingers crossed that CAF will intervene on the matter.
If CAF deems it that Malawi cannot host the match since the airports and borders will be shut down, the match will have to be rescheduled.
Malawi’s foreign-based strikers—Chawinga sisters Temwa and Tabitha—have also not been spared from the pending airport shutdown’s aftermath.
China-based Tabitha said she is waiting for Football Association of Malawi (FAM) to advise her on the way forward.
“I am supposed to come on Monday [August 26]. But with the airport shutdown, I don’t know what will happen. FAM will tell us what to do,” she said.
FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda on Tuesday said the association was aware of the situation.
“The Kenyan delegation and the Fifa match officials are expected to arrive on the day the demonstrations are scheduled to start.
“FAM is following the developments with keen interest as there is great possibility of the Kenyan team and the match officials not entering the country if there is going to be a lockdown of airports.
“If this happens, it means the match will not take place, and as a country, we will be cautioned by Fifa,” he said.
In line with Article 4 of the tournaments, rules and regulations, as a host country, Malawi is responsible for the safety and security of the guest team and Fifa delegations for the match.
“As such, it is our prayer that the planned demonstration would not affect the Kenyan team and the match officials’ travel itinerary,” he said.
“Nonetheless, we have engaged the Malawi Police Service and Immigration Department to ensure smooth entry and exit of Kenyan delegation and Fifa match officials.”
Malawi women’s football national team is currently in camp under coach Abel Mkandawire in preparation for the qualifier after participating at Cosafa Women’s Championship in South Africa.
The coach used the regional tournament, where Malawi was booted out in group stage, to tune up for the Olympic qualifier.
Kenya’s Harambe Starlets, on the other hand, beat Ethiopia 3-2 at the weekend in a strength-testing match.
Malawi beat Mozambique 14-1on aggregate in a two-legged preliminary round qualifier while Kenya was seeded to the first round. The winner between Malawi and Kenya will take on either Gabon or Ghana in the third round.