Government has recommended that Malawi national football team should fly to Zimbabwe for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Zimbabwe Warriors.
Due to financial constraints, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) wanted the Flames to travel by road to Zimbabwe via Botswana, where the team will play a strength testing match on Saturday before proceeding to Harare.
However, government turned down the proposal because the route is not safe following renewed conflict between ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) and Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) rebels which recently claimed the lives of four Malawians who were attacked while in transit from South Africa to Malawi via Maputo.
“We just got communication from Malawi National Council of Sports that government has said we cannot travel by road because it is not safe. Government has since provided air tickets for the team to fly,” FAM general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda said yesterday.
FAM already exhausted its K100 million funding from the 2015/16 financial year and government earlier put its foot down on extra funding.
Sports Council executive secretary George Jana confirmed in an interview that government has authorised the Flames to fly and have provided about K17 million towards the trip.
As we went to press, FAM general secretary Nyirenda said they were working on logistics to enable the team fly to Botswana today where they will play an international friendly against the Zebras on Saturday before proceeding to Zimbabwe for the June 4 qualifier.
Meanwhile, coach Ernest Mtawali yesterday said he is keeping his fingers crossed that the friendly against Botswana will be played.
“We started training on Monday with local players minus Be Forward Wanderers players who were on club duty in Mzuzu. Then on Tuesday we released Nyasa Big Bullets players for their Presidential Cup game against Blue Eagles. Right now we have 12 players.
“We are expecting South Africa-based professional players to start arriving today. But with the change in the programme, we are not sure if they will fly straight to Botswana or come here.”
However, Mozambique-based players Charles Swini, Joseph Kamwendo, Schumacher Kuwali and John Banda will not be part of the squad that will play Botswana due to club commitments.
“They have league games this weekend. The friendly is not on a Fifa calendar date, so they will only be released on Sunday May 29, a week before the qualifier,” said Mtawali. n