Airtel Top 8 is conspicuously missing on 2020/21 football calendar despite an assurance from both FAM and the sponsor, Airtel Malawi, that the tournament would take place.
The yet-to-be released calendar, which The Nation has seen, indicates that the season will have Fisd Challenge and newly-introduced FDH Bank Cup as the only major tournaments.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) competitions subcommittee chairperson Jabbar Alide, who is also the association’s vice-president, confirmed the development in an interview yesterday, attributing it to the effects of Covid-19.
He said: “It has been a strange and challenging season for us because of Covid-19. It has affected our plans.
“Various companies had individual policies as regards Covid-19. The season started late and the same has not spared some tournaments such as Airtel Top 8 and the Ecobank Charity Shield.
“The Top 8 agreement with Airtel Malawi expired in 2019, discussions have been going on, but it has been difficult putting up the pieces together.
“If anything comes up, then we’ll be at liberty to review the calendar to accommodate these programmes as well.”
The FAM veep also said the calendar will be subject to changes “here and there, depending on circumstances”.
Last month, Airtel Malawi marketing director Frank Magombo said they were looking forward to extending the deal.
He said: “It is also our hope that the Covid-19 pandemic will be under control by then.”
According to the calendar, regional, youths and women’s leagues will kick off on January 30 with FDH Bank Cup scheduled to roll out on February 6.
The TNM Super League first-round is scheduled to conclude on March 21 with the second-round slated to kick off on April 17. The top-flight league is expected to wind up on July 5.
Fisd Challenge Cup is scheduled to kick off on May 1 with regional qualifiers.
The season is expected to wind up on August 29.
Meanwhile, some clubs have expressed concern that two weeks into the new season, FAM is yet to release its 2020/21 football calendar, saying it affects their planning.
In the past couple of seasons, FAM has been releasing the calendar way before the season kick-off.
Nyasa Big Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga said the delay to release the calendar is worrying.
He said: “It is worrying because in the absence of a calendar, we cannot plan as a club as we do not know which tournaments have been lined up and when.
“Lack of a calendar brings disturbance. It is difficult to come up with a budget and even the technical panel is affected too as the coaches need to know well in advance on the plan of activities, including national team engagements.”
“So, in the absence of a calendar, we are working haphazardly. We hope FAM are working on that.”
On his part, Be Forward Wanderers chairperson Symon Sikwese said: “It’s a challenge operating without a calendar, especially now when we do not have a sponsor because if we do things without a plan, then it will be a problem.”
Karonga United general secretary Ramzey Simwaka said for a side that is financially unstable, “it is tough to convince potential sponsors and well-wishers without a proper plan of activities”.