A new breath of life has been injected into our top flight football with the coming in of the Airtel Top 8 Cup to be competed for by the top eight teams of the TNM Super League.
This is very good news and congratulations to Football Association of Malawi (Fam) and the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) for injecting this new excitement to our football.
Teams now have something more to fight for apart from eyeing the Super League title or trying to avoid relegation. Those that shall realise their chances of winning the title are slim, they shall fight to be in the top eight and those outside shall battle to rise up the ladder and not miss the Airtel Top 8 Cup.
That shall create so much hype throughout the season and that’s very good for our football development. I doff my hat to Airtel for coming in to support the beautiful game.
I reminisce the exciting time of the BP Top 8 years back. It was something that we shouldn’t have lost because of violence that forced BP to withdraw their then lucrative sponsorship.
This is where I appeal to Fam, Sulom and other stakeholders that this cup should be properly managed so that it can be maintained forever if possible by making sure that after the expiry of the three-year contract with Airtel, it can still be in existence should the mobile phone service provider decides to cut ties.
It’s the same thing I said about the FISD Challenge Cup. This tournament replaced the Standard Bank Knock-Out Cup that was abruptly withdrawn by the bank leaving Fam completely helpless until Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development (FISD) came to the rescue.
Standard Bank had been sponsoring the Knock-Out Cup since 2007, played at the end of the TNM Super League season in which the six top teams in the Super League qualified for the event and two were voted in by the bank’s clients.
The Knock-Out Cup started as Fam Cup in mid 2000 at a time when the corporate world decided to abandon football following a surge in violence but the name was changed to Knock-Out Cup.
I said that this Challenge Cup should be owned by Fam because it is the same concept that Fam initiated way back in mid 2000. When Standard Bank pulled out, Fam should have reverted to the original concept where several companies joined it as sponsorship partners but luckily FISD came to the rescue.
I suggested that the Fam Challenge Cup should be generic that in the event of the expiry of the five-year contract and FISD decides not to renew, it should still be known as the Fam Challenge. All its concept and rules and regulation should be owned by Fam and be kept for posterity.
That should be the same with this Top 8. At the end of three years and Airtel decides to pull out, then the next partner can take over.
That’s my take. Well done, Airtel for injecting this fresh breath of life in football and we pray we shall have more glamour in the coming season as the teams shall compete not to miss the boat for the next edition.
And the prize structure of K15 million for the champions, with a difference of K10 million for the runners-up (at K5 million) is so enticing that it leaves no room for complacency in this knock out format.
And for you fans, let us enjoy our beautiful game. Do not let emotions run too high to the extent of being violent and force the dutiful sponsor to pull out.
This is the best that has come for football and let us enjoy it to the maximum to entice the sponsor to stay on and render more support. And probably attract other stakeholders to come into the game through broadcasting advertising around the pitch just like what we see in other countries.
It’s even more invigorating that these two mobile phone service providers have partnered to give the best for football. There were strong rumours circulating around that the TNM contract with Sulom barred a competing company from supporting football but with this arrangement of the Airtel Top 8, that puts it to rest that it might just have been that — a rumour.
That’s why I plead that let other stakeholders come into the game through broadcasting advertising around the pitch just like what we see in other countries.
Let the battle begin.
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