Controversy rocks Southern Region Boxing over Mini-Olympic Games

Hell has broken loose within Southern Region Boxing Committee (SRBC) following controversial selection of boxers to participate in Mini-Olympic Games, starting on Thursday in Lilongwe, Nyasa Times can reveal.

In August the Malawi Boxing Association (Maba) through regional boxing committees organized regional championship games to select representatives to the Mini Games to run from November 21 to 23 at Civo Stadium and Kamuzu Institute of Sports in Lilongwe.

Those to emerge winners from the tournament will represent the country at Commonwealth Games, next year.

However, controversy has erupted following revelations that some of the selected boxers were hand-picked, raising questions on their competitiveness to represent the country at world stage.

Saopa

Saopa

Initially, from the regional championship games, each region selected 11 boxers of different categories but the number was trimmed to four due to what Maba claimed lack of funding. Malawi Olympic Committee is expected to spend over K25 million for the mini games, which comprise of various sporting categories.

Nyasa Times investigations found out that SRBC Chairperson, Bester Saopa, two days ago, controversially replaced some of the selected boxers with new faces, raising questions on criteria used in making such changes.

SRBC had selected Steve Maliki, Israel Kamwamba, Limbani Lano and Chikondi Makawa for the games before Saopa on Monday removed Kamwamba and Lano, replacing them with Jonas Kakwere and Isaac Kamanula respectively.

Saopa has also scrapped off assistant trainer, John Masamba and replaced him with Ali Faki, who has no boxing-training experience.

When contacted, Saopa while confirming to have single handedly removed the mentioned names, defended his decision, arguing it was done based on belief of equity.

Saopa said: “It is only four boxers required to participate at these games, we couldn’t therefore have two boxers from same club. We needed to accommodate other clubs as well. It’s all about equity”.

But when questioned on criteria used to determine who was skilled enough to replace Kamwamba and Lano, Saopa argued that he acted on orders from Maba on the need to accommodate boxers from other districts apart from Blantyre.

He also said Faki had been selected as team manager and not trainer, but was quick to point out that despite playing the managerial role, he would be allowed to partake in training the boxers.

“This is why I had to choose some from Nchalo and the other one from Liwonde so that we should have a variety in the squad. And if you talk of Faki, he is an experienced boxer, of course he is not a qualified trainer, but he can do it, I don’t doubt his capabilities. Faki is loped in as manager,” argued Saopa.

Maba General Secretary, Arthur Nanthulu refused to comment on the controversy, saying the boxers’ trainer, Andy Muyaya was better placed to comment on such technical issues, arguing being an administrative person is not involved in selection of boxers for competitions.

But Nanthulu raised hopes that the selected boxers from all regions would do well at the Mini Games to raise the tempo in readiness for Commonwealth games next year, adding the number of boxers was trimmed to four due to issues of funding.

In an interview, the boxers’ trainer, Andy Muyaya raised doubt on the selection of the Kakwere and Kamanula, arguing he did not approve their selection and that the two don’t have enough dexterity to represent the country at world games. Muyaya complained of not being consulted on the removal of Kamwamba and Lano who were endorsed by the SRBC to have got all-what-it takes to represent the region at the Olympic Mini Games out of the nominated 11 boxers.

“I think politics is involved in this because when I tried to speak out on this; they labeled me egocentric and big-headed when in fact the changes which have been done were effected by a single person, and nobody was consulted on why some of the boxers had to be removed after spending time preparing for the tournament,” complained Muyaya.

Muyaya said: “It’s baffling that somebody like Kamwamba is being removed when he has experience than the new faces. I doubt if we will do better at the competition. If am still in, it’s just because of my love for boxing but not that amused with their decision”.

And in separate interviews veteran boxing trainer, retired Cornell Godfrey Jalali and matchmaker, Steve Mawenzi Msiska trashed the selection of boxers to the Mini-Olympic Games, saying the selected were handpicked and not chosen on merits.

Jalali said it was doubtful if the country would do well at the Commonwealth games considering how local organizers have handled issues concerning the selection of representatives to the competition.

“If they are trying to destroy boxing by changing how things are done, then don’t expect us to do well at international level. I suspect there is corruption going on how boxers are selected. Those that are to compete at Mini Games have been handpicked; I don’t think they were chosen on merit,” complained Jalali who once raised the issue with Mini-Olympic Games organizers.

And Msiska said: “This is boxing; it’s a game and not a political party. There is need for us to be professional and not handpicking participants to the tournaments. We are creating a bad image for the country’s boxing fraternity”.

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