The Scorchers have been dealt a blow as their China-based forwards—Tabitha and Temwa Chawinga—have been ruled out of the back-to-back 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afon) first round qualifiers against Zambia.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary (GS) Alfred Gunda said the duo’s Chinese Superleague champions Wuhan Jianghan FC have turned down the association’s request to release the players, citing Covid-19 restrictions that could sideline them for weeks upon return.
He said: “We wrote the club asking them to release the two players, but in response, the club said releasing them would lead to a lengthy quarantine as per strict Covid-19 preventive measures in that country.
“In turn, that would affect their appearance at club level as they would miss a number of matches.”
Gunda said the tricky part is that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) matches have been fixed outside the Fifa calendar.
He said: “So, we have seen the trends in World Cup qualifiers where teams from Europe were reluctant to release players for matches in red-listed countries, especially in southern Africa.
“It is a bitter pill to swallow, but there is very little we can do because the players have their careers to protect. Apparently, the club has also been honest about the situation and the consequences.”
The FAM GS said under the circumstances, the Scorchers must accept the reality and build on the momentum from the recent Cosafa Women’s Championship in which they qualified for the final.
“They have proven that they are good enough and we are optimistic that even without the two key players, they can deliver,” he said.
Tabitha, who is also Scorchers captain, also confirmed in an interview yesterday that they won’t make it for the games.
“We would have really loved to come and represent our nation, but under the circumstances, there is nothing we can do about it.
“If we were to be released for the matches, it would mean staying in isolation for about 30 days.
“Nevertheless, I have a lot of optimism in the team that they will do well.
“They proved a point at the Cosafa tournament by beating South Africa and reaching the final. The team only needs our support and encouragement,” she said.
The Malawi National Women’s Football Team hosts the Copper Queens next Wednesday at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe while the return leg is scheduled for a week later.
The last time the two teams met was last year at the Cosafa Women’s Championship where the Scorchers emerged 1-0 winners through Temwa’s strike.