Confederation of African Football (CAF) has postponed 2022 World Cup qualifiers scheduled to start next month, just three days after ordering Malawi to play home matches outside the country.
Malawi and nine other countries, namely Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Liberia, Mali, Namibia, Niger and Sierra Leone had their home facilities blacklisted.
The Flames, who are in group D alongside Mozambique, Cameroon and Ivory Coast, were expected to play their home match against Mozambique on June 11–14 outside the country.
However, CAF announced yesterday that the qualifiers will now be played in September, October 2021 and March 2022.
“The CAF Emergency Committee, in consultation with Fifa, decided to postpone the CAF qualifiers for the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 that were due to be played in June 2021 after taking into consideration the current challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to ensure the optimal playing conditions for all participating teams,” reads a statement from CAF.
The postponement of the qualifiers means Malawi has three months to ensure the facilities are ready for CAF inspection.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu said the development is a huge relief.
He said: “CAF has made the right decision to postpone the matches in June because there would have been chaos in the affected member associations.
“It is pleasing to see that CAF has listened to our preliminary objections bearing in mind that a lot of countries that were affected had raised the concerns. This gives us sufficient time to put our stadia in good order for inspection in readiness for the World Cup qualifying matches in September.”
Nyamilandu said the association will engage government, who own Kamuzu Stadium and Bingu National Stadium on the matter.
He said: “We will engage with the stadium owners to agree a plan of action to make our stadia ready for inspection. We will still proceed to submit our appeal so that Kamuzu Stadium and Bingu Stadium are reconsidered for approval based on a detailed plan to revamp both facilities.”
The Flames were scheduled to play Cameroon in Yaoundé on June 5–8 before hosting Mozambique on June 11–14.
They were then going to play back-to-back qualifiers against Ivory Coast away on September 1–4 and at home on September 5–8 before hosting Cameroon on October 6–9 and wrapping up the qualifiers away to Mozambique on October 10–12.