The Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced yesterday changes in the schedule of the qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Following consultation with FIFA, CAF announced that its emergency committee decided to postpone the CAF qualifiers for FIFA World Cup 2022, taking into account the epidemiological situation due to COVID-19.
Initially, the qualifiers were due to take place in June.
CAF and FIFA decided to push the qualifier matches, which will now kick-off in September.
“CAF is reassessing its protocols and processes to enhance the implementation of Covid-related protocols, including specifically focusing on pre-match testing which had been the source of some challenges in previous windows,” the confederation said.
FIFA released a statement to confirm the joint decision with CAF, saying that the measure seeks to ensure optimal playing conditions for all teams.
“The qualifiers are now scheduled to take place in the existing windows of September, October and November 2021, and March 2022,” FIFA added.
Previously, CAF postponed several qualifier matches for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and 2020 World Cup qualifiers due to the pandemic.
Some football commentators have said the decision might be a “blessing in disguise to Malawi national team” which was advised to play their home matches at a neutral venue after the country’s only approved Kamuzu Stadium was condemned by CAF.
In a letter to the Football Association of Malawi (FAM), CAF said Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre was not fit to host international matches such as FIFA World Cup matches scheduled for June, September and October.
“Therefore, and considering that there are no other CAF approved stadiums for this type of competition in your country, a decision has been taken not to allow your national association to play the upcoming matches in your territory; hence, your federation will have to select approved stadiums in countries of other CAF member associations,” the letter said.
FAM was advised to inform CAF by May 7 of a venue outside the country where the Flames would be able to fulfill their World Cup fixtures while Kamuzu Stadium is being rehabilitated.
But with the postponement, Malawi has now ample time to rehabilitate the stadium so as to have the ban lifted.
Malawi is in Group D of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, and is expected to host Mozambique, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.