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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Another Covid-19 blow for Malawi as Orlando Pirates' Mhango ruled out of Guinea opener

14:23 GMT+3 09/01/2022
Frank Mhango, Orlando Pirates, August 2021
The Flames will be missing eight key players when they open their Group B campaign with a game against the Syli Nationale

Malawi have confirmed six more players have tested positive for Covid-19 and will thus miss their Group B Africa Cup of Nations opening fixture against Guinea on Monday.

The six – among them Orlando Pirates striker Gabadinho Mhango - returned positive results on Saturday and it comes just a day after two other players had already been ruled out of the fixture against the Syli Nationale owing to Covid-19.

Malawi have revealed in a statement defenders Peter Cholopi, Lawrence Chaziya, Stanley Sanudi; midfielders Chikoti Chirwa, and Robin Ngalande alongside striker Mhango have already gone into isolation.

“The Football Association of Malawi would like to announce that as per the Caf 2021 Afcon pre-match protocols the Flames players and officials underwent a Covid-19 PCR test on Saturday afternoon, 48 hours before the team’s opening match against Guinea on Monday,” a statement on Malawi official website confirmed.

“Unfortunately, six players and three technical staff tested positive and will miss the Monday match. The players are defenders Peter Cholopi, Lawrence Chaziya, Stanley Sanudi; midfielders Chikoti Chirwa and Robin Ngalande, and striker Gabadinho Mhango.

“The officials are Head of Technical Panel Mario Marinica, goalkeeper Trainer Swadick Sanudi, and Physiotherapist Chikondi Mandalasi. The nine are in isolation under the supervision of the team’s Covid-19 medical team led by Dr. Precious Kadzamira.”

Confirming the incident, Malawi’s head of delegation Tiya Somba Banda said: “It’s a difficult situation that we will not have the players and some of the technical staff for the opening match.

“Our medical team is managing the situation to ensure the players and the officials recover as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, striker Richard Mbulu, who had tested positive while the team was in a 10-day training camp in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has returned negative results and will link up with the team on Sunday.

“However, the good news is that Richard [Mbulu] will join us on Sunday and will be available for selection and the technical panel has already put a plan accordingly for the Guinea match,” Banda continued.

“The Flames will have another test on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, and we hope by then the nine, including officials, would have recovered and cleared for the next match against Zimbabwe.”

On Friday, Malawi confirmed two players – midfielder Charles Petro and defender Mark Fodya – had tested positive and will miss the opening fixture.

Fodya is expected to leave Saudi Arabia on Sunday and join the team in Cameroon on Monday while Petro will remain in isolation in Jeddah and have another test on Monday.

During the team’s camp in Saudi Arabia, the Flames played one friendly beating Comoros 2-1 and it was Mhango, who grabbed the opener.

After their game against Guinea, the Flames will take on Zimbabwe on January 14 and then end their group phase with a clash against Senegal on January 18.