Long at last sports is expected to return next week, six months after government’s suspension due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minister of Youth and Sports Ulemu Msungama yesterday said the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 will outilne the sports return protocols this weekend.
The minister announced this in Lilongwe when he inspected solar-powered water pump project at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, donated by Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development (Fisd).
Msungama said: “I would like to assure Malawians that before the end of this week, we should be able to tell the nation that the games would be able to start probably next week. Everything is in order and we are just working on modalities before we work on the announcement,” he said.
But Msungama could not say whether the sports activities would return with spectators.
On why the announcement delayed, Msungama said: “What we are providing is a policy direction which is a law. So, we were working to fine-tune the grey areas.”
Government last month gazetted laws banning public gatherings of over 10 people, meaning the resumption of sports activities would require changing the laws.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu welcomed the restart of football, saying it had come at a right time when the national team needed to regroup in preparation for international competitions.
“It’s a huge sigh of relief for the football family and a step in the right direction as we gradually return to football. It’s been long time coming. We welcome the decision to restart football with joyful hearts and with open arms,” he said.
Flames captain John CJ Banda was over the moon following the announcement.
“We thank God. We are thankful to everyone who tried to push for the restart. We are grateful to government as well,” he said.
However, soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda warned on the need to adhere to precautionary measures while playing football.
“We need to be very careful. Otherwise, any surge in cases among players will lead to government imposing the ban again,” he said.
Banda said the players will champion the spreading of messages on how to stay safe.
He said: “When the games start, we will be in the forefront in helping control Covid-19 by following all the necessary precautionary measures. We will also help to spread the awareness messages.”
Meanwhile, FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda said the Flames will go into camp next week in preparation for the Cosafa Cup to be held in South Africa from October 2 to 17.
He said the secretariat will start the process of testing players before they can go into camp.
“There are protocols that we put in place as we were waiting for the decision to resume football.
“Following the indication that football and other sporting activities will resume next week, we will start with national team protocols starting with testing of players,” Gunda said.