With the mounting pressure for the 2020 season to kick off in August, health experts have expressed fear on the move as Covid-19 cases in the country are steadily rising.
But Football Association of Malawi (FAM) is adamant, saying it is pushing for football resumption as the football fraternity is threatened.
In an interview, Blantyre District director of health and social service Dr Gift Kawalazira condemned the move, saying the environment is not conducive for sports to resume in August.
He said: “It would have been better to halt the idea of resuming sports activities in the country while assessing the situation.
“We should first realise that life is very essential, therefore, as a country we should first wait until the end of Winter and let those being repatriated from other countries into Malawi stay for about few weeks while monitoring the situation on ground.”
Executive director for Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) George Jobe also feared rushing the season kickoff will do more harm to the lives of the people because of the cold weather.
“We are in Winter Season when cases of the coronavirus are likely to be more active as alluded to by the World Health Organisation that Covid-19 is going towards its peak period in Africa, which means we need to treat these conflicting ideas very serious,” he said.
When contacted, Minister of Health Jappie Mhango and the ministry’s spokesperson Joshua Malango did not respond.
However, a member of government Covid-19 Taskforce Dr John Phuka said in an interview on Saturday, with 620 cases reported and eight deaths as of Saturday there is need to be cautious.
“With increasing numbers of cases and deaths it’s not the best time to relax our containment measures,” he said.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Francis Phiso said there is a need for thorough assessment before giving the go ahead.
Phiso was reacting to FAM’s proposal it submitted to the ministry on Monday for the league to kick off following persistent pressure from football fans, calling for the resumption of the season.
He said: “I have received the proposal, but the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and Malawi National Council of Sports will look at it.
“What FAM has done is to start the process. I would urge fans to be patient.”
In an interview, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said: “Our plan is to find safest way possible of playing matches in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic by establishing a new norm of living with it because the pandemic is here to stay. As much as our priority is to save lives, we also have to ensure that members of the football family are able to survive and support their families.
“Otherwise the future of the game is under serious threat. We are running a risk of the game of football dying a natural death and we have a duty to safeguard it.”
Nyamilandu also said the resumption of football matches in the EPL and Bundesliga “gives us confidence that it is possible to organise and play football matches safely.”
But in some top European leagues where football has resumed only 300 people are allowed to enter the stadium with stringent measures such as players on the bench sitting two metres apart and no ball boys allowed to contain the spread of the pandemic have been enforced.
Most Super League clubs and players are also skeptical about the resumption.
In an interview, Nyasa Big Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga said the People’s Team position on the matter is that games should resume when all the stakeholders safety from the pandemic is guaranteed.
He said: “Safety should guide any decision to resume football. All stakeholders must be safe in all football games when they resume.”
Be Forward Wanderers chairperson Symon Sikwese also agreed with their rivals’ position.
He said: “This is a tricky situation. Fans are hungry for soccer and this is understandable. However, we still need to be cautious of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We could be safer now, but things can turn around anytime. Government has put in measures, but same people preaching social distancing, are involved in political rallies.”
Silver Strikers chief executive officer Thoko Chimbali said it is not timely to resume football, considering the situation on the ground.
“We need to understand that where football has resumed, there are very stringent measures that might not work for Malawi football, which include playing in an empty stadium, a sharp contrast to what the supporters want
The 2020 football season was suspended two days after President Peter Mutharika declared State of Disaster on March 20 as one of the measures to contain to the Covid-19 pandemic.