The more things change, the more they remain the same. Football Association of Malawi (FAM) yesterday suspended Flames camping until they receive funding from government.

The Flames were supposed to go into camp last evening to step-up preparations for next weekend’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group B qualifier against Comoros.

But the association’s president Walter Nyamilandu yesterday said they have outstanding debts to settle with service providers in the excess of K90 million arising from the team’s participation in the 2018 Championship of African Nations (Chan) preliminary round and the friendly match against Kenya and, as such, they have been forced to put camping on hold.

Flames taking on Swaziland in a 2017 Afcon qualifier last year

“Our coffers are dry and we are not able to sustain camping anymore. The matter is being looked into by the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development,” he said.

Asked on why they are unable to meet the costs when they put it on record that the world football governing body Fifa and government had committed to meet part of the Flames’ costs for the 2019 Afcon qualifiers, the FAM president said: “Fifa only committed to cover for external camping costs such as air tickets, accommodation and meals. Their funding is also limited to competitive matches only and not friendly matches.

“In general, the responsibility of Fifa was directed towards away competitive matches only and this means that we have to fend for ourselves at home in all aspects and take care of the players’ allowances when we travel. This is over and above buying equipment and uniform for the Flames.”

He said the measures they have taken are a last resort “having tried our best to manage the situation and lobby for funding for the past two months”.

But Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) executive secretary George Jana said funding for the Flames would be provided by yesterday.

“The funding is available and will be accessible today [yesterday]. FAM has been advised of this and we have instructed for the camp to continue without disturbance. The GS [general secretary] of FAM has seen the contact,” he said.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Lucky Sikwese also downplayed the issue in an interview yesterday, saying:  “There is no issue really because government already allocated funding for Chan and Afcon participation and it had been sitting in the Reserve Bank [of Malawi].

“So, it has nothing to do with funding. The money had not reached Sports Council because there was a small technical hitch.”

However, despite the assurance, the FAM boss was not convinced, saying: “We have been talking to them for the past two months. We have been in touch with government through the responsible ministry, we have also been in touch with Sports Council and even the minister is aware of our predicament and all we have been getting are verbal assurances.

“They must commit and put it in writing and not by mere word of mouth. It is taking eternal to release the funding. We have exhausted all the money that we had and we have to limit the damage. For camping to materialise, players need water, food and allowances; we need to buy air tickets for foreign-based players.”

Nevertheless, Nyamilandu said they would still wait for the funds to be released and, if anything, the team will regroup next Monday.

“But we are grateful for the efforts being made,” he said.

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