Football Association of Malawi (FAM) had to negotiate with the Kenya Airways to delay their flight to Chad from Nairobi on Sunday evening by three hours to accommodate the Flames who left Kamuzu International Airport an hour and a half late.
Initially, the Flames were supposed to depart Lilongwe at 1.15pm for Nairobi, but according to Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda, the Kenya Airways flight which they boarded, only departed at around 3pm.
Nyirenda said the flight delay from Lilongwe to Nairobi would have led to the Flames missing their flight to ChadÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capital NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢djamena as it was initially scheduled to depart at 5.30pm.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Even for the foreign-based players, their flight from South Africa to Nairobi, which was supposed to depart at 11.15am, was cancelled. Instead, they left at 2.20pm. The foreign-based players arrived in Nairobi two hours later.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“So, we had to negotiate with Kenya Airways authorities here and in South Africa to delay their flight to Chad to accommodate the team.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Fortunately, the authorities were understanding. They accepted our request. It was a blessing for us because had Flames missed the flight, they would have connected to Chad on Wednesday [tomorrow], the day of the game,Ã¢â‚¬Â Nyirenda explained.
The FAM GS said as a result of the hitch, the Flames left Nairobi at 8.30pm on SundayÃ¢â‚¬â€about three hours behind scheduleÃ¢â‚¬â€and arrived in NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢djamena at 2.25am ahead of tomorrowÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2013 Africa Cup of Nations first round qualifier against Chad.
A Kenya Airways official in Lilongwe who only identified herself as Ruth said she could not say anything on the said arrangement until she got details from the station manager who handled it.
The Flames arrived in NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢djamena too tired to get straight into business forcing coach Kinnah Phiri to cancel their initial training session scheduled for Monday morning.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Of course, it is a drawback because the delay has affected our initial schedule. We will not be able to train this morning and already that is a minus for us.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“However, after the exhausting trip, the boys needed a good rest so that they should be in the right frame of mind. We will definitely loosen up this [Monday] afternoon,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Kinnah from NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢djamena on Monday.
Despite the flight hitches, both Nyirenda and Kinnah said the team was accorded a warm reception by the hosts unlike during the previous trip when they were accorded a hostile reception and accommodated at a substandard hotel.
Said Nyirenda: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I spoke to the leader of delegation [FAM first vice-president] Moses Mkandawire and he told me that they were warmly received by officials of the host association. They are accommodated at Novotel Hotel, which is of international standard.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Chad FA officials were at the airport and assisted our delegation accordingly. This is in total contrast to what happened last October when we were booked in a hotel that was not in line with CAF and Fifa standards.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He also said the letter which FAM wrote to CAF recently to caution the Chad FA not to repeat the previous poor reception, also helped the cause.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Actually, last Thursday CAF issued a stern warning to Chad FA not to repeat what they did last time and it was on the same day that we received the entry visa letter and the notification that our team had been booked at Novotel Hotel, which is of good standard,Ã¢â‚¬Â Nyirenda said.
If it were not for delayed funding, FAM had planned to send an advance party of technical director Jack Chamangwana and the associationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s accountant Christopher Mdolo to ensure the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s smooth arrival, accommodation and allocation of a good training ground. The two ended up travelling together with the team on Sunday.
Meanwhile, FlamesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Europe-based forward Robin Ngalande faces a race against time to join the Flames ahead of tomorrowÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2013 Africa Cup of Nations first round qualifier against Chad as he was held up in France due to heavy snow that has affected flights in Europe.
Nyirenda confirmed NgalandeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s predicament, saying the player will connect to NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢djamena from FranceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capital, Paris, once the weather condition improves.
Nyirenda said, initially, Ngalande was expected to be the first to arrive in Chad after departing Madrid on Saturday, but has been held up in France for two days.
Flights in Europe have been affected by heavy snow and the condition has affected thousands of passengers.