Malawian footballers are within Fifpro workload monitoring system requirements, but they are at risk of both injuries and burn-out due to crammed fixtures.
According to professional football players union, Fifpro’s Player Workload Management system, a physically fit player should be able to cope with between 55 and 60 matches per season.
Our investigation on domestic and international player workload index revealed that so far, local players are within the Fifpro requirement since the TNM Super League has 16 teams and the maximum games a player can play is 30.
With just three cup competitions: the Airtel Top 8, FDH Bank Cup and the Castel Challenge Cup, a team cannot play more than six games in each cup on the way to the final.
However, despite Malawian players being within the Fifpro requirement, they are in grave danger of injuries due to poorly managed fixtures played on pitches with poor surfaces.
At the beginning of the season, Super League of Malawi (Sulom) released fixtures which shifted from playing two games in a week to one. However, this only happened in the first round.
Some clubs ended up playing six games in 10 days while others played three games in six days, breaking the Fifpro requirement of five days of rest in between fixtures.
Chitipa United coach McDonald Mtetemera blamed Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and Sulom for the abnormality.
He said: “At some point, we had to play five games in 10 days. We played in Blantyre then Balaka.
“As we were on our way back to Chitipa, we were told to play another game in Lilongwe then Rumphi. What kind of a fixture is that?
“We tried to complain to the authorities, but as a small team we had no voice. Our complaints fell on deaf ears. ”
But Silver coach Pieter de Jongh, Bullets coach Kallisto Pasuwa and Wanderers’ Mark Harrison also have the same concerns as they played match after match within four days.
Sulom general secretary Williams Banda blamed FAM for the mess, saying its unplanned national team engagements as well as the introduction of Castel Challenge Cup mid-season led to fixtures congestion.
“We said it at the beginning of the season that the delayed kick-off due to Saudi Arabia Flames camp and the Cosafa Cup rescheduling would affect the calendar.
“Then we had an additional competition [Castel Cup] added on the calendar. These are the things that affected the fixtures.”
This is against Fifpro which states that: “There should be no additional matches added to competition calendars at national and international levels before enforceable mechanisms to protect players have been implemented.”
FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda said they have learnt a lesson from their mistake of introducing unplanned events on the calendar.
Meanwhile, our findings show that Wanderers right back Stanley Sanudi has played the highest number of games both for his club and the Flames.
But even after playing in 98 percent of Flames games and most of his club’s league and cup games, he has played 41 matches which is below Fifpro cap.
At club level, Sanudi has played 29 games while at national team he was involved in 12 Flames matches.
Other Wanderers players that have played more games are Felix Zulu (28), Wisdom Mpinganjira (28) and goalkeeper William Thole (25).
Sanudi is followed by Bullets’ Lanjesi Nkhoma who has played 40 games for both club and country, including 29 league and cup games as well as four CAF Champions League matches.
At national team, he has played one international friendly match, two Afcon qualifiers and four at the Cosafa Cup.
Other Bullets players with most games are Patrick Mwaungulu, who has played 28 for his club and four for the Flames (32), Frank Willard (32) Anthony Mfune (32) and Chawanangwa Gumbo (31).
Maxwell Paipi tops Silver Strikers’ list at 29 matches followed by Innocent Shema (27) and Tatenda M’balaka (25).
Chitipa United goalkeeper George Chikooka (27) has played most games for his club followed by Blessings Joseph (25) and Gideon Sululu (21) whereas Civil United’s captain and most consisted player Timothy Silwimba has played 29 games.
Compared with Fifpro international index, Manchester United captain Bruno Fernandez tops the list, having played 70 matches last season.