Flames coach Meck Mwase says it will be practically impossible for players to gain match fitness within three weeks ahead of the Cosafa Challenge Cup.
The coach was reacting to the October 2 to 17 tentative dates for the tournament released by the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa).
Local and Mozambique-based players have been inactive since December last year as the start of the season in the two countries coincided with the suspension of football as a preventive measure against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Instead, the Flames mentor said he will heavily bank his hopes on South Africa-based players who—before the conclusion of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) last Saturday—had been active for almost a month.
He said: “October 2 is rather too close and that leaves us with only three weeks of preparations.
“For players that have been inactive for eight to nine months, it is difficult if not impossible to regain match fitness within such a short period.
“The solace though is that we’ll mostly rely on those based in South Africa.”
Mwase is also keeping his fingers crossed that the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, which is set to make a determination tomorrow, will approve sports resumption.
Mwase said apart from veteran midfielder Robert ‘Baggio’ Ng’ambi, who is in the swansong of his illustrious career, the rest of the players based in South Africa, will be called up.
They are estranged captain Limbikani Mzava, 2019/20 joint golden boot winner Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango, Gerald Phiri Jnr, Richard Mbulu, Chawanangwa Kawonga, Dennis Chembezi and Khuda Muyaba, who only got a five-minute run as a substitute for relegated Polokwane City.
Nevertheless, the Flames gaffer defended Muyaba’s inclusion, saying: “At least he was training with his club, unlike local and Mozambique-based players.”
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu stressed that under the current circumstances, withdrawing from this year’s regional showpiece would have been ideal.
“But we do not have such luxury as it is the only platform to help us prepare for the  Africa Cup of Nations’ back-to-back qualifiers against Burkina Faso in November,” he said.
The FAM president also said should the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 give the greenlight for sports resumption, camping will start immediately.
He said: “A call-up will be made for players to report for camping over the weekend. In fact, the list of the players is ready. We are just waiting for the go ahead.
“We are relying heavily on South Africa-based players as they are already match fit. Local-[based] players that are fit will beef up the squad.
“The coach will need to strike a balance of foreign and local-based players so that we do not compromise the strength of the team.”
Stand-in captain John ‘CJ’ Banda also confessed that it will be tough for those that have been inactive for a long time.