How can football in Malawi be both so popular and go so wrong?
It is a fact that in the 70s and 80s, football organisation was at its best in Malawi. It was a well connected circuit from football administrators,
Sponsors to good grounds.
The Timau Crew will now look at some challenging issues affecting football in Malawi.
This article may appear to be critical of the present football administrators. This is not intentional. The information presented is derived from our own experience not from a personal agenda against individuals.
In the 70s and 80s big names in our society were involved with football. These were people who had influence. John Tembo, a member of the national executive committee of the ruling Malawi Congress Party and Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi, was chairman of National Sports Council. Timothy Chirwa, City of Blantyre Town Clerk, was Chairman of Wanderers, Jeff Shaba who was once Secretary to the Treasury and then became General Manager of Malawi Housing Corporation was treasure for Wanderers, Ishaemal Khamisa was General secretary of Football Association of Malawi (FAM), both Rtd Chief Justice Richard Banda and Late Aleke Banda, were once in charge of Fam. People of influence in government and corporate world were in control of football hence its smooth running.
Today, every Jim and jack, Towela and Tinkhani think can manage football, and this has led to corruption and mismanagement.
Corruption and mismanagement has chased away old and potential sponsors. We can claim that 90 out of 100 dollars in Malawi football disappears in private pockets. People are fighting for positions in Fam or at club level because these positions are usually very profitable. People fight to get a position in the football scene. The fact is that there is a lot of money going around in football and this has led to serious corruption. Corruption is bad because it demoralises the players. For instance, the bonuses that should go to national team players are usually never paid. The national team goes out on national duty without allowances. And yet in the 70s and 80s none of the above named people tampered with football money hence almost every company sponsored football.
In the 70s and 80s, a lot of money was being pumped into football by companies because they had confidence in the calibre of people handling the funds. Companies ranging from UTM, Cold Storage, David Whitehead and Sons, Brown and Claperton(B&C), Manica, Nico, Commercial bank (Combank Athletics), National Bank (Moneymen). All these companies had very good football teams and this included Prison, who had a team called Prisons United, players like Michael Kaimfa and Maloya Siliya, who later played for the national team, were products of Prisons United.
There were four major trophies, one of them belonged to the head of state and these were, Kamuzu, Press, Chibuku and Castle.
Mayors of all the major cities used to organise competitions for young boys to develop football at grassroots level.
Malawi Book Service and Coca-Cola organised competitions for secondary schools.
Today, very few companies sponsor teams. Most Super league teams are operating without sponsorship. How do we expect our national team to perform?
In the 70s and 80s, Government and FAM took up the question of stadiums seriously and continued in their quest to continuously improve the standards of football arenas. The Kamuzu stadium had floodlights on all the time. Then there was the Upper stadium ground, the BAT, National Bank had Moneymen ground, Limbe country club was in use.
In Lilongwe, government built the Kamuzu Institute of sport, the Civo stadium. Lilongwe Community Centre ground was at its prime. In Mzuzu, government built Mzuzu stadium. All this was an initiative from government to promote the game in the country.
At the moment, most of these grounds are dilapidated. No proper maintenance. There are no floodlights at Kamuzu stadium. Stadiums do not offer comfortable space and yet these are buildings where every week, month and year thousands of people congregate. And this is what Fifa says about stadiums;
“Crowd safety and comfort are directly connected. Improved amenities lead to increased safety. Comfort means more space for each spectator, shorter routes to the exits, more entrance gates and exits, areas to gather in and areas for refreshments as well as public repel conveniences. Once all these factors have been taken into account, when there are no more fences and when most of the stadiums provide protection from the scorching sun or the pelting rain, when spectators can sit in peace instead of standing for hours, that is when we can expect to witness the desirable elements of a sports event, namely, a relaxed atmosphere, electrifying and exciting, but never hectic and aggressive”.
Malawian clubs used to participate in all the major African club competitions. In so doing, the players were exposed to international football at club level. No wonder the national team was doing well.
Football is a game that transcends all forms of religion, sport, world wide and we wonder why the Malawian politicians do not see this.
They have put much emphasis in strengthening their own political parties at the expense of football.
Football is a dynamic sport and politicians should know this. Unless our politicians realise the importance of football, standards of the game will continue to dwindle. Let us take Zambia for instance, when Chipolopolo boys won the AFCON cup, opposition leaders and the current administration all had lunch at State house. Can you now see what football can do?