Super League of Malawi (Sulom) will take advantage of the three-week TNM Super League suspension to conduct Covid-19 tests for all the 16 elite league clubs.
Sulom president Tiya Somba Banda, who confirmed testing positive to the virus yesterday and is asymptomatic, said they were expected to meet Ministry of Health officials as we went to press to strategise on how the exercise will be carried out.
On how the initiative will be funded considering that testing players and officials nationwide could not come cheap, the Sulom president said such details will be revealed later.
“This [the testing exercise] is something we are working on and we are having a meeting this evening with the Ministry of Health to see how we can go about it. We will explain more after that meeting,” Somba Banda said.
About his status, he said he is staying positive and strictly following all the necessary measures to beat the pandemic and would like to advise others, who have also tested positive, not to despair as “together we can beat this”.
Sulom shelved the games in compliance with the government’s new restrictions that allows maximum gatherings of 50 people as a measure to reduce the spread of the pandemic.
Within the past few weeks, a number of Super League players and football officials have tested positive to the virus after privately undergoing tests but Sulom believes it would be better if all the clubs knew their status.
Football Association of Malawi Covid-19 Task Force chairperson Chimango Munthali yesterday said they are on the same page with Sulom but he explained that the tests need to be conducted closer to the league’s resumption.
“It is in our interest to do that as well. However, we would like to be holistic in our approach; we need to first identify recess and restart challenges. We will also engage government on that. This initiative is key, but it needs to be done when we are about to restart football, not now,” he said.
Super League players and clubs have welcomed Sulom’s initiative.
However, Mighty Wanderers captain Alfred Manyozo Jnr believes the plan will not be effective in containing the pandemic due to the players’ living conditions.
“This initiative is really important because it will ensure our safety as players while we wait for the resumption of matches,” he said.
“However, I feel we will still be at risk after the tests because most of us live in ghettos, where it is difficult to abide by Covid-19 preventive measures such as social distancing and the wearing of masks.”
Ntopwa FC owner Isaac Jomo Osman and Karonga United general secretary Ramzy Simwaka said they welcome Sulom’s initiative, saying it is important for all the players and officials in the league to know their status.
“Of course, we are doing the tests on individual basis but we still need to do this together as football stakeholders. This pandemic has come hard on us and any measures aimed at dealing with it are welcome,” Simwaka said.
In spite of that, public health expert Professor Adamson Muula agreed with Manyozo Jnr that Sulom’s initiative will not make a big impact.
“The problem is that some people will be found negative after the tests but it does not mean they cannot get infected after returning to their communities, where the virus is,” he said.
“In other countries such tests are effective because people are immediately put in isolation so as not to infect others or get infected.”
Muula added that Sulom will also need to have facilities that can help to provide psychosocial care or counselling to those that will be tested.