Flames coach Ernest Mtawali fears that the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (afcon) qualifiers’ crammed schedule could have a negative effect on his charges ahead of Tuesday’s return leg against Guinea’s Syli Nationale at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
After a three-legged trip from Conakry which took them to Ghana and Ethiopia over two days, the Flames flew back on Sunday through Chileka International Airport and went straight into camp to prepare for Tuesday’s showdown.
They loosened up at Chiwembe Technical Centre after a two-hour rest and are expected to get the feel of the match venue this morning.
The Flames, who were welcomed by a group of enthusiastic fans on arrival, held Guinea to a one-all draw.
Guinea are expected to jet in today [Monday] by Ethiopian Airlines.
“I do not know how they [authorities] come up with the fixtures, but I think it could have been better.
“Not that I am trying to find an excuse ahead of the second leg, but I personally think it is not healthy for teams to play on a Friday and then embark on a tiresome three-legged trip and play on the following Tuesday. It is easier in Europe because apart from being financially sound, they often have direct flights.
“They [players] are not superhuman, they need ample time to rest.
“We will not push them hard, they need to relax so as to be in the right frame of mind,” he said.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu agreed with Mtawali, saying they also lodged a complaint to Confederation of African Football (CAF).
“We raised the same complaint with CAF because we felt the Fifa calendar is not ideal for Africa but Europe. Travelling in Europe is easier than in Africa. Fatigue will indeed catch up with the players.
“Unfortunately, CAF said there was nothing they could do except to take the matter to Fifa. Apparently, it was not only us. Most members also expressed concerns over the crammed fixtures,” he said.
The FAM boss said the Flames were worse off because the Guineans had the luxury of chartering a flight.
“We have had to endure long connecting flights through Accra [in Ghana] and Addis Ababa [in Ethiopia] because we can only afford commercial flights,” he said.
Sports sciences and physical education expert Mark Tembo said Fifa could have done better in coming up with the calendar.
“They [players] are not gladiators and need adequate time to rest and reflect.
“You cannot play a match today and then travel over two days and then play another match within four days, it affects the players ‘physical condition leading to lapse in concentration and, therefore, you cannot get the best out of them. Something is just not right,” he said. n