Malawi head coach Mario Marinica has hit out at the conditions his team have encountered at their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) accommodation and outlined his belief that there is a conscious bias against the “smaller” teams in the competition.
The Flames will face Morocco at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde in Tuesday’s round of 16 clash, but their preparations have been affected by food poisoning, a lack of basic commodities, and, according to Marinica, a dearth of facilities for clothes washing.
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The Romanian head coach, whose comments come amid accusations from Gambia about the sub-standard conditions they have encountered, believes that favouritism towards the competition’s bigger teams is leaving the lesser lights at a disadvantage.
“You wouldn’t see Sadio Mane washing his own underpants and hanging them on a bush to dry,” Marinica told ESPN. “Gambia have the same problem, and there are different standards here, teams are being treated differently.
“We talk about inclusion, we want to have minnows, small teams doing fantastic things, but when it comes to the latter stages, people don’t fancy us playing against Cape Verde and not Senegal playing Morocco [for example].
“Certain questions have to be asked; why are these things happening to us, why only to the smaller teams, why only to Comoros, Gambia, us?”
Marinica outlined that while his clothes had been washed, his team had been forced to do their own laundry, while hotel staff at the Hotel Valle de Bana in Bafoussam had also failed to provide the team with basic commodities.
“I’ve asked my fellow colleagues and team leaders to lodge a formal complaint,” he added. “I complained to the managers of the estate, and at the current [hotel] we struggled for three days before things were sorted out.
“I couldn’t have milk for coffee, they said the milk was finished until tomorrow. We are treated like second-class citizens, but if you’re a hotel manager and you see this happening, you take charge, you can’t allow it in this day and age, at this level of competition.
“We stayed in the same facilities before and I was shocked, we didn’t have enough food, there were complaints about the food, but we stayed together, worked hard, stayed strong and will come through with flying colours.”
Malawi have also encountered food poisoning problems and coronavirus complications before matches, with Marinica complaining about players vomiting before and during fixtures after eating sub-standard food.
He said he believes that the officiating at AFCON has not favoured his side, and accused the same bias towards the bigger teams as filtering into the officiating at the tournament.
“Honesty on the pitch is important,” he concluded. “The referee in the last match played a huge part in our draw with Senegal, where we had a clear cut penalty, the player was pushed, pulled and the referee gave nothing.
“Later, the ref gave offside when he should have played advantage, it’s as though we are second-rate citizens.”
Midfielder John Banda also corroborated Marinica’s testimony of the team’s underwhelming treatment in Cameroon, and called on the Confederation of African Football to ensure all teams are treated on an equal footing.
“Our clothes haven’t been washed, it’s true, and we’re facing some problems,” he told ESPN. “It’s unfortunate that we’re being taken as underdogs.
“As Africa, we need to be treated equally, the same as Senegal, Nigeria, all equally. This is a competition, no teams are guaranteed they will win it, and we all need equal treatment and fairness.”
Malawi, who are competing at their third AFCON, have never before reached the knockout stages.