Ministry of Youth and Sports has withdrawn Malawi’s offer to host the Under-17 Cosafa Championship, which is also a zonal qualifier for the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This follows Council for Southern Africa Football Associations’ (Cosafa) request for all host countries for the 2020 competitions to reaffirm their interest in hosting the tournaments.
Both Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and Ministry of Youth and Sports confirmed the development yesterday.
FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda said they got communication from government on the decision and that they had already passed the news to Cosafa.
He said: “We wrote government asking for a letter of guarantee that we will host the Under-17 Cosafa Championship as agreed. The ministry has responded that we cannot host the event due to the coronavirus. The response does not mention whether we will be able to host the event when the pandemic is under control. It simply says we can’t host the event.”
Gunda said the association appreciates government’s concerns, saying it would have been impossible to host the event while the pandemic is still soaring.
Director of sports Jameson Ndalama also defended the ministry’s position, saying a responsible government cannot allow FAM to host the event when Covid-19 cases in the country are on the rise.
He said: “We all know that all international sports competitions are currently suspended due to the coronavirus. We also know that sports activities are suspended in the country. In such a scenario you cannot expect government to guarantee FAM that they can host this year’s Cosafa Under-17 Championship.”
However, Ndalama said government might revisit its position in future.
“May be if the situation improves and international sports competitions resume, we might reconsider the decision but not now when the whole continent is still fighting the pandemic,” he said.
Government’s decision comes just a week after Cosafa announced that, all things being equal, it would still stage its six lined up tournaments this year.
Cosafa was supposed to hold the senior Cosafa Cup, Senior Women’s, Under-20 boys and girls and Under-17 boys and girls tournaments.
In a statement, Cosafa general secretary Sue Destombes said: “We have been engaging with the football associations of Malawi and Mauritius regarding their continued hosting of the men’s Under-17 and Under-20 youth zonal qualifiers this year and we are fairly confident in this regard.
“We await proposed dates from Malawi, which they are considering taking cognizance of the school calendar, as well as the approval by government to resume domestic football according to the plan put forward.”
Malawi is the second host nation to pull out hosting of a Cosafa tournament after Mauritius also said they cannot fulfil the pledge to host the Under-17 girl’s tournament which was supposed to be held in April in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Mauritius Football Association have advised that they will no longer be in a position to host this tournament in 2020 given the fact that football will only resume in October and they are hosting the Under-20 Youth Zonal Qualifier in December,” Destombes said in the statement.
However, she was not available for comment yesterday while her deputy Suzgo Nyirenda said he was not aware of the development.
“But Covid-19 will be with us for a longer time. So, are they implying that there will be no football in Malawi?” He wondered.
Asked if FAM will face penalties for withdrawing hosting the event, Nyirenda said he needed to consults on the matter.
Though regulations impose sanctions for pulling out hosting of events, the rules also accept force majeure (unforeseeable circumstances) as a just cause.
Malawi successfully hosted the 2019 Under-17 Championship in Blantyre which Zambia won.