Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo says the ministry is concerned with football fans’continued disregard of Covid-19 guidelines in stadia.
The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 approved the attendance of spectators at football matches on condition that Covid-19 preventive measures such as washing hands with soap, social distancing and wearing of masks would be strictly adhered to.
That happened after Football Association of Malawi (FAM) persistently lobbied the government, which was reluctant to allow spectators ahead of football restart last month.
However, that has not been the case since the 2020/21 TNM Super League kicked off two weeks ago as once fans enter stadiums they do not comply with the guidelines.
This was first observed during the Super League launch match between defending champions Nyasa Big Bullets and Blue Eagles at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre and the Be Forward Wanderers encounter against Mzuzu Warriors at Mzuzu Stadium. This has also been the trend in the other matches.
Said Mwansambo: “Ministry of Health, in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, put in place those measures as a condition for allowing fans in stadia.
“But it is disappointing to learn that people are ignoring the guidelines. As government, we cannot afford the malpractice to continue. Let spectators strictly observe the measures. Otherwise, the public health team will be forced to reverse the earlier decision of allowing fans in stadia.”
While admitting the problem, Wanderers Supporters Committee chairperson Mervin Nkunika said Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and Super League of Malawi (Sulom) did not orient them on how to handle the issue ahead of football resumption.
“How can we handle the situation when we were not trained on the guidelines before the football season started” he queried.
Nevertheless, he concurred with Bullets director of supporters Stone Mwamadi that they should try their best to control the situation by deploying stewards to enforce the measures in the terraces.
“On our part, we are doing our best to ensure that fellow supporters do not cross the line. However, it is not easy to control people from different backgrounds. We thank the government for giving us the greenlight to enjoy our favourite sport at the stadia and we plead with them not to reverse,” said Nkunika.
FAM Covid-19 Task Force member Christopher Kuyera said FAM and Sulom should ensure that guidelines are available for fans to follow.
He said: “We do everything possible alongside Sulom to ensure all the tools are available at matches and that everyone is checked at the stadia. We also ensure that stadium capacities are cut by half as per the entry tickets issued at matches. But it baffles that the fans choose to ignore the measures once they get into the terraces.”
On the fans’ concern that FAM and Sulom did not orient them, Kuyera said awareness messages on Covid-19 are everywhere and no fan can argue that they are not aware of Covid-19 preventive measures.
Sulom vice-general secretary Zachariah Nyirenda said they are working with the police and stewards to enforce the guidelines but “it is not something that can be implemented 100 percent because some fans have reservations on the measures.”