Malawi will open their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign against Guinea on Monday without interim head coach Mario Marinica and six players after they tested positive.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) confirmed via a statement that the squad underwent the mandatory tests on Saturday afternoon.
“Unfortunately, six players and three technical staff tested positive and will miss the Monday match,” the statement reads.
“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 affected persons have since gone into isolation. Another test is scheduled for Wednesday and FAM hopes the affected players would have recovered by then.
Meanwhile, striker Richard Mbulu and left-back Mark Fodya are available for the match after testing negative in Saudi Arabia where the Flames were camping.
However, midfielder Charles Petro remains in isolation after testing positive again.
CAF regulations say “a team will be required to play a match if they have a minimum of eleven (11) players available who have tested negative. In the event of the absence of a goalkeeper, another player from the team must replace the goalkeeper, provided the total number of available players is at least eleven.
“A team that does not have a minimum of eleven (11) players available will be considered to have lost the match 0-2. In exceptional cases, the Organizing Committee of the Africa Cup of Nations will take the appropriate decision.”
The build up to the competition has been overshadowed by reports of increasing Covid-19 cases among teams, weeks after Fifa and a body for clubs in Europe tried to refuse the release of players to AFCON saying CAF had fallen short of stating measures for protecting players from the pandemic.
However, CAF stood its ground to hold the competition which was shifted from last year.