Football Association of Malawi (FAM) says there will be no draw for this year’s Airtel Top 8, a departure from the previous editions.
In a statement issued yesterday, FAM said the tournament, which was not played last year due to Covid-19 restrictions, is scheduled to run from October 30 to December 18.
Reads the statement in part: “In the first round of the competition, the clubs finishing in the top four of the 2020/2021 TNM Super League season will be the home teams in the first leg.
“The club finishing in position one of the Super League [Nyasa Big Bullets] will face the club finishing on position eight [Mafco FC]. Similarly, position two [Silver Strikers] will play position seven [TN Stars].”
Mighty Wanderers, who finished third, date sixth-placed Moyale Barracks while Civil Sporting Club, who finished fourth, date fifth-placed Karonga United.
This means that there will be no moment’s respite for the teams that finished in the top eight as the tournament will kick off two weeks after the league and FDH Bank Cup wind up.
FAM competitions subcommittee chairperson Jabbar Alide, who is also the association’s vice-president and a High Court judge, confirmed the changes in an interview yesterday, saying: “We intend to start the Airtel Top 8 immediately after the season ends.
“So, it will still be a season opener, only that the season will be starting much early. The aim is to keep our elite league players active in preparation for the  Africa Cup of Nations finals next January.”
Silver Strikers chief executive officer Thoko Chimbali, whose side are the reigning champions, said they are okay with the arrangement.
He said: “We are aware of that and all the teams that have qualified were briefed that the Airtel Top 8 will start soon after the FDH Bank final. Actually there will be a one or two-week break.
“However, we are also aware that after the Top 8, which will possibly end by early December, there will also be a break and that the league will start next year.
“So, we should have a two-month break or so which will be enough for us unless the calendar changes. But next season is kicking off in February or early March next year.”
Civil Service (Civo) United general secretary Ronald Chiwaula was also in favour of the arrangement.
He said: “Much as we are aware that players are not machines and need to rest, we should also remember that we stayed for over three months due to Covid-19 restrictions and that being the case, we believe that players had enough rest.
“It is just unfortunate that as teams, we are not finishing the league at once because others are still playing when others have completed their fixtures, meaning the concerns might not be the same.”
The champions of Airtel Top 8 will cart home K17.5 million with the runners-up getting K5 million and all participating teams will receive K1 million each.
The tournament’s top scorer and best player will each get K500 000.