Malawi Netball Queens Tuesday, August 18, 2015 arrived back home from the just ended Sydney World Netball Cup tournament to a heroines’ welcome when they were treated to a VVIP reception by the country’s First Lady Madam Getrude Mutharika at Kamuzu International Airport (Kia) before being hosted to a luncheon by sponsors Airtel Malawi at Ufulu Gardens in Lilongwe.
It was just one of the rare moments for the Queens- dubbed the Pride of Malawi, who never anticipated to find the First Lady waiting for them at the airport.
According to coach Peace Chawinga-Kalua, the Queens only knew about Mutharika’s presence at the airport when they saw her from windows of the South African Airways aeroplane that brought them home.
They reportedly started dancing after noticing the First Lady.
As the girls and their officials came off the plane, Mutharika, in the company of Sports and Culture Minister Grace Obama Chiumia hugged each of them and presented flowers to every member of the delegation before addressing Queens at the airport’s VVIP Conference Hall.
“You are our pride,” said the First Lady.
“We followed your games in Sydney and I remember one day when we were having a Beautiful Women, Beautiful Malawi function at State House, we had to pause and watch you beating one of your opponents. We all cheered and danced,” recalled Mutharika.
The First Lady assured the Queens of her full support.
“Today, I just wanted it to be a surprise. I did not announce that I will be coming to welcome you. But be assured, I will be there for you. Whatever you need, I will be ready to assist,” she said, attracting loud cheers from the gathering.
Taking her turn, Chiumia hailed the First Lady for coming to welcome the Queens in person.
“I too did not know that you were coming and was surprised to see the red carpet. You are the first First Lady to do this and your presence is a big motivation to the girls. Although we did not make it into the top five, the Queens were the highest scoring team,” said Chiumia.
Airtel’s Sponsorship and Public Relations Manager Edith Tsirizani described the First Lady’s presence as a sweet surprise.
“Just like the First Lady has demonstrated, Airtel too trusts and believes in the girls. We always feel encouraged to move on and support the girls as they keep raising the Malawi flag higher,” said Tsirizani.
As the Queens left the VVIP Conference Room, they met another surprise outside when they found a state-of-the- art Hummer Limousine waiting to fetch them to town.
The Limo was provided by the Friends-of-Queens’ group, which added pomp to the welcoming party.
The Queens’ Limo joined the First Lady’s convoy as the procession headed for Ufulu Gardens via Area 18 Round-about and City Centre. Mutharika’s escorted the Queens all the way to Ufulu Gardens before bidding them farewell.
Before being hosted to the Airtel luncheon, the Queens had a brief audience with the Friends-of-Queens, who presented a cheque worth K1.7 million to the team.
Chairperson of the grouping Hlupikire Chalamba, who is also Airtel’s Legal Counsel and Company Secretary, said the money would be shared amongst the players, their two coaches and team doctor with each of them expected to pocket K180,000.
“We went all over the country and contacted some Malawians abroad soliciting donations for the Queens. Apart from the cash, one of the members of our group, Mike Msungama provided his Limousine to pick the Queens from the airport. This is only the beginning and we are planning big for the team,” said Chalamba, a cousin to Mwayi Kumwenda.
Speaking during the luncheon, Airtel Chief Commercial Officer Charles Kamoto said much as the Queens did not break into the top four, their performance and team spirit was encouraging.
“You were focused and showed great hunger for success. The commentators were full of praise for team Malawi.
“In order to inspire you to move to greater heights, Mr Money has decided to reward you with K1.8 million to be shared amongst the 18-members of the contingent that travelled to Australia,” said Kamoto, attracting another round of applause from the Queens.
Captain of the side Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira was all thanks for the gestures from Airtel, Friends of Queens and government.
“This is the first time we have been accorded such a reception and it is like a dream. We know we have not achieved what the nation wanted but this is going to inspire us to do even better next time,” said Mtukule.
Nam president Rosy Chinunda said although the team lost its fifth position to continental rivals South Africa, the Queens still deserved a pat on the back, having produced the best player of the tournament and scored the highest number of goals.
Chiumia announced at the luncheon that the First Lady was preparing something big for the Queens.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :