Airtel Money Netball tournament two-time champions Tigresses have accused Lilongwe based umpire Sibongile Moyo of contributing to their cup final defeat at the hands of bitter rivals Kukoma Diamonds during the competition’s finals at Don Bosco Sports Centre in Lilongwe’s Area 23.
Tigresses surrendered the championship to their Blantyre rivals after losing 40-37 to the Diamonds in extra-time following a 35-35 stalemate in regulation time.
Speaking to Nyasa Times after missing out on the K8 million grand prize, Tigresses coach Peace Chawinga Kalua blamed it all on the officiation by Sibongile Moyo.
“Our girls put up a grand fight but we have been let down by the umpires especially Sibongile Moyo. She blew almost 10 fouls against our team, which was very strange. I rarely talk about officiation but today it was just too much. We did not deserve to lose the game but the umpires helped our colleagues win the game,” said Kalua, who is also head coach for the country’s national netball team- The Queens.
The Tigresses’ coach might have had a case as the crowd booed the umpires on several occasions in the last quarter before turning against Diamonds.
Diamonds captain said it was a 50-50 game, which could have gone either way but praised her colleagues for showing resilience. She felt the umpires were fair in their officiation.
Moyo, a former Queens’ player officiated the final alongside Titus Wankhama from Kamuzu Barracks in Zomba.
In the third-place play-off, Blue Eagles Sisters defeated city rivals Civo Nets 49-47 also after extra time. The two Lilongwe giants were tied at 39-39 after regulation time.
Civo Nets were themselves to blame for not wrapping up he game in regulation time after giving away a 22-14 half-time lead in the third quarter before restoring the lead in the last quarter. They, however, gave it away in the last second of the match as Eagles levelled the scores with their last touch of the ball- a penalty that was awarded to them following a foul by a Civo Nets defender on Joyce Mvula.
Civo Nets players openly wept after the final whistle but found some solace during the presentation held in the evening at Capital Hotel, where their Goal Attacker Sale Nyondo and Centre Rose Mkanda were named player-of-the tournament and Best Centre respectively.
Mr Money tight-lipped on contract extension
During the prize presentation at Capital Hotel, people were left guessing on the future of the Airtel Money Netball sponsorship after Mr Money failed to indicate whether the sponsorship agreement between the mobile network company and Netball Association of Malawi (Nam) would be renewed or not.
In his official speech, Airtel Money Country Director Francis Matseketsa only expressed satisfaction with the way the tournament had turned out.
“When Airtel Money decided to get involved in netball, our goal was to give girls a platform to connect with their passions. I truly believe this goal has been met because during the three years of the sponsorship, we have seen more girls passionately take up netball and realise the power of their potential.
“We have seen an increase in attendance during netball games and more Malawians accepting netball as one of our most treasured sporting activities,” said Matseketsa, who also commended Nam for ably handling the competition.
Quizzed by journalists on the future of the competition in an interview, Matseketsa said Airtel would do a review of the tournament and reflect on the successes before determining the tournament’s future.
Sports and Culture Minister Grace ‘Obama’ Chiumia, who witnessed both the final game and the presentation expressed hope that Airtel would renew the sponsorship agreement.
“Although you have not said whether you will continue with the sponsorship, I am very hopeful that you will renew the agreement with Nam and I thank you in advance,” said Chiumia.
The Minister saluted Airtel for the landmark sponsorship, urging the netball fraternity to patronise the company’s services and products. “Let’s all support Airtel because they have shown a spirit of giving back what they get from their customers.”
Nam president Rose Chinunda reported that her association had identified a lot of raw talent from the competition.
“Since we started the tournament from the district level, we have identified a lot of young talent and shortly some of the young players identified will be called into camp for the Under 21 World Youth Games scheduled for Botswana in July this year. We thank Airtel for giving us a platform to identify these players, who are also future stars for the senior national netball team,” said the Nam president.
During the presentation, Champions Kukoma Diamonds were presented with the trophy, gold medals and K8 million. Runner-up Tigresses got K3 million and Silver medals with third-placed Blue Eagles pocketing K1.7 million. Civo Nets walked home K1.2 million richer with the rest of the quarterfinalists receiving K800,000 each. K500,000 consolation prizes were given to the bottom four teams.
Online media left out
During the function, Airtel also gave out media awards that saw three journalists- Mphatso Malidadi, Ronald Mpaso (from Times Group) and Solomon Manda from Nation Publications scooping the Print Media awards.
MBC’s Frank Kandu was best in the electronic media followed by Innocent Chitimbe of Star/Timveni Radio and Lucy Kadzongwe of MBC.
Despite fans enjoying the competition’s coverage through the online media right from the tournament launch in Salima, the online media was completely left out in the awards, reportedly administered by Nam general secretary Carol Bapu.
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