Super League of Malawi (Sulom) is plans to ask the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 to waive public gathering restrictions to 1 000 specifically for the upcoming Blantyre derby.
But the home team, Be Forward Wanderers, says they are planning on a minimum of 10 000 spectators.
The local football powerhouses—Nomads and Nyasa Big Bullets—clash this Saturday in the TNM Super League at Kamuzu Stadium.
The most sought-after fixture on the domestic scene comes at a time when the Presidential Task Force has eased restrictions on public gatherings from 50 to 250 for outdoor activities which stakeholders feel is on the lower side.
On whether they have the capacity to control the fans that might not be allowed due to the limited number, Sulom general secretary Williams Banda yesterday said: “We are working on match coordination with all stakeholders that will guide on the management of the game.
“However, the game has some risks and we may consider seeking a waiver from the [Presidential] Task Force on Covid-19 to allow 1 000 supporters with negative Covid test certificate or vaccinated supporters.”
But Nomads supporters committee chairperson Mervin Nkunika said as hosts, they are planning for not less than 10 000 tickets.
He said: “Sulom can go ahead with their plans, but 1 000 is far on the lower side. As the home team, we are not looking at anything less than 10 000 spectators. We can even go to as many as we can if need be.
“We have no sponsor and we are struggling to pay our players and we cannot let the opportunity of maximising revenue from the Blantyre derby.
“Authorities should forgive us, but this is the route we are taking.”
He said the arrangement is also a safety measure because restricting entry to 250 spectators could be 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.
“My advice to them is that they should soften up and allow a reasonable number of fans, say a minimum of 10 000 with strict adherence to Covid-19 prevention guidelines,” said Nkunika.
He further said they were supposed to have their final preparatory meeting yesterday before meeting their Bullets counterpart today.
On his part, Bullets supporters committee secretary Mabvuto Chibambo said: “Restricting entry to 250 spectators won’t work on Saturday, certainly not for the derby. The restrictions are taking a toll on the clubs’ finances apart from denying supporters entertainment.”
Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo-Chiponda was not available for comment yesterday.
Football analyst George Kaudza Masina said: “This is a litmus test for both Sulom and FAM. Much as it must be respected that the capacity of 250 spectators is for a good cause, for a Blantyre derby this is not practical.
“The challenge is that the voices of concerns are coming from the leadership of the two teams and likely that gives the supporters an impetus to side with their leadership and misbehave on the day.
“To control the crowds will be a tall order as it will need a whole battalion.”
He also said consideration of the number of spectators might be seen as favouring these two teams, but it could be a “necessary evil”.
Said Kaudza Masina: “Let the capacity be increased to 50 percent or postpone the derby altogether as a preventive measure lest we regret our stubbornness.”