Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, yesterday failed to fly to Saudi Arabia after failing to get entry to the Middle East country at the furthermost part of southwestern Asia.
The 25-member squad of local players was supposed to leave yesterday, but Football Association of Malawi (FAM) competitions and communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka said they could not do so because their visas were not yet ready.
He said: “We applied for a group visa like we did when the team camped in Saudi Arabia last year in preparation for Africa Cup of Nations [Afcon] finals, but there are now new immigration laws for Saudi Arabia.
“Players and members of the team must apply individually. We started that process yesterday and once the visa are out, the team will leave.”
Zakazaka said the glitch might se the team travelling in groups.
He said: “The visas might not be ready at the same time. So, the team might travel in groups depending on whose visas are ready.”
The team was supposed to camp in Saudi Arabia for 14 days in preparation for back-to-back 2023 Afcon qualifier against Egypt.
But following the delay, the camp will be for about nine days since the team is expected to leave for Egypt on March 20.
The squad has 22 TNM Super League players and three foreign-based players Francisco Madinga [Galaxy FC, Botswana], John CJ Banda (UD Songo, Mozambique] and Kieran Ngwenya [Aberdeen, Scotland].
Madinga and Banda will join the team on Monday while Ngwenya will fly direct to Saudi Arabia.
Flames coach Mario Marinica was not available for comment on how the delay will affect his plans.
While in Saudi Arabia, the Flames are expected to play friendly matches against that country’s clubs before facing Egypt in Cairo and Lilongwe between March 20-28.