The answer is no! The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 has turned down Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets’ desperate plea to allow spectators in their TNM Super League showdown this Saturday at Kamuzu Stadium.
The two teams on Tuesday sent a delegation to meet Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo-Chiponda in Lilongwe on the issue.
The Nomads were represented by general secretary Fadwick Matemba while the People’s Team assigned its Central Region supporters committee chairperson Austin Kasito
In an interview yesterday, the minister, who is also co-chairperson of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, confirmed rejecting the two clubs’ request, saying it was made at a short notice.
However, it was not all doom and gloom as she said the task force will consider allowing half capacity at football matches from next week.
Said Kandodo-Chiponda: “I understood the predicament in which football teams find themselves in, considering that they depend on gate revenue for their operations.
“They actually emphasised that they would ensure that the Covid-19 prevention guidelines would be strictly adhered to. But I pleaded with them to bear with me and wait until next week when we meet as a full team because on my own, I could not make a determination.
“In fact, I assured them that when we meet, we will table the issue and we will ease the restrictions and allow 50 percent of the capacity at football matches.
“After all, the positivity rate has dropped further to two percent. So, I appeal to the soccer fraternity to bear with us until next week when there will be good news.”
On why government appears to be taking a hardline on football while being soft on other sectors when it comes to enforcing restrictions, the minister said: “It is unfortunate that it is being looked at that way, but these restrictions apply to all sectors and if some are getting away with it, then it is very unfortunate.”
In an interview yesterday, Kasito said they had no choice but to accept government’s position.
“The minister told us that while she understood our position, she could not, on her own, make a decision to allow fans for Saturday’s match as that would be breaking the law.
“She, nevertheless, assured us that when they meet next week, they will consider allowing half capacity,” he said.
On his part, Matemba said as a club, they respect government’s position.
“We will advise our fans accordingly not to go to the stadium. However, I told the minister that should something happen, then we should not be held accountable because this is a high-profile match which involves the two most followed clubs in the land.
“Supporters are bound to go there in their numbers and it could lead to a stampede because fans might want to force their way in.
“Our supporters have been patient for sometime, but that patience is now wearing thin,” he said.
Early this week, Nomads supporters committee chairperson Mervin Nkunika said as a home team, they were planning on 10 000 spectators.
He said: “We have no sponsor and we are struggling to pay our players. We, therefore, cannot let the opportunity of maximising revenue from the derby.
“Authorities should forgive us, but this is the route we are taking.”
Nkunika said the arrangement is also a safety measure because restricting entry to 250 spectators could be a recipe for disaster.
“Insisting on the current figure could lead to chaos at the stadium because fans might want to force their way in and you know what that means. I hope the authorities are looking into all this,” he said.