Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and analysts have said Malawi will benefit from CAF’s decision to shift the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers which were scheduled for September.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe announced at the weekend that the qualifiers will be shifted to later dates to allow the continent’s five 2022 World Cup finals representatives to prepare thoroughly.
The continental football governing body has also switched the dates of the next Afcon finals from June next year to January, 2024, six months later than scheduled.
Reacting to the changes in an interview on Monday, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said: “It’s a huge relief in terms of fixture congestion as this enables us to focus on Chan [Africa Nations Championship] qualifiers only and to continue rebuilding the Flames into a formidable force.
“We are also hoping to benefit from having a reasonable budget once the fixtures of Afcon qualifiers have been revised.
“This will alleviate the financial constraints we are facing.”
He was referring to their K210 million allocation from government which has since been exhausted.
Reacting to the development, Flames coach Mario Marinica said: “It could have been better if we knew in advance because we could have planned accordingly.
“We could have used the Cosafa Cup to expose young players.
“Having said that, since we do not know the exact dates, I cannot say whether it will be an advantage or not as I do not know which players will be available, who may be fit ans do on.”
Football analyst Charles Nyirenda said: “For FAM the shift bears potential benefits in that economically, the extended period will allow for gathering enough resources for both preparations and taking care of direct costs related to the qualifiers.
“Additionally, an 18-month plus extension means that there is sufficient time to iron out the areas that require polishing up in the team. As such, the extended time couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Another analyst Kelvin Moyo said: “The switch will work to the Flames advantage in terms of rest, recovery and preparations. Just after playing at the Afcon finals in Cameroon earlier this year, it was going to be a challenge to manage the team physically and mentally with limited time.”
Concerns over the weather in West Africa in mid-year have dictated the shifts.
“We took a lot of advice and we decided we cannot take a risk,” Motsepe told a news conference.
“We don’t want to run the risk of our top competition igetting washed out.”
However, he did not respond to a question on why it has taken so long for CAF to make the change, given it had been warned of the rainy season when it was announced the competition would take place mid 2023.
CAF moved the hosting of its continental championship to mid-year in 2019 to avoid the club versus country tussle for its top players.
But weather concerns and the Covid-19 pandemic caused the last edition to be played in Cameroon in January, reigniting complaints from clubs in Europe who felt forced to give up their African players for national duty.
“January is not the best time because the European clubs do not want to release their players, but we have no choice,” Motsepe added.