Malawi sports 53 years of independence, what have we achieved to show for it?

It felt so great when we celebrated the golden Jubilee of Independence three years ago — it did. But, really, what have we achieved to show for it in many spheres of our lives?

From what I see, we take two steps forward and one step backward at the same time. We are not progressing. We have public servants looting from the national coffers, corruption is rampant, there is less development structures to boast of, our dear national football team is in shambles — the list is endless.

A couple of years ago, the media wooed fans to patronise a crucial 2010 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at Kamuzu Stadium against the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that had then English Premier League sniper Lua Lua using the slogan ‘Make Them See Red’.

The fans were asked to wear red attires—in the absence of replica jerseys—in order to paint the stadium red and energise the fans to cheer their dear Flames until they become horse in order to spur the lads to beat DRC.

The response was massive — there were Mexican waves, flags flew, drums were beaten, songs were chanted, the whistling was just sweet music to the ear and the celebration when the Flames scored was out of this world.

The team, after a while qualified for the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola, their second appearance after missing Africa’s greatest soccer fiesta for 26 years. Despite bowing out from the tournament after group stages of one win and two losses, it was a wonderful feeling especially when the Flames made headlines after beating 3-1 the 2010 World Cup bound Algeria.

The relief of qualifying for the Nations Cup after missing it for such a long time was that maybe the Flames have broken their jinx of failing to qualify and that from then on it would just be plain sailing.

But seven years down the line, we have missed four finals and the chances of qualifying for the next one is remote as the qualifying group include Morocco and Cameroon — especially after struggling to beat 1-0 less-fancied Comoros Islands here at home.

The Flames used to be a force to reckon with on the continent. They were the team to beat and were never intimidated by any opponent but today, instead of progressing further, the team seems to be slipping back.

Our football system has fallen apart and it’s not just football but the whole sports world, including our pride — netball.

It’s all because sport is never regarded seriously as it used to be in the one party system of government. It is not sufficiently funded by government and it does not have much glamour to attract sponsorship support from the corporate world.

The youths were exposed to sport at a tender age because the school curriculum included Physical Education (PE) and the schools had sports fields. Today in those sports fields, people have planted crops.

Football venues have run to the ground to an extent that the mecca of football — the Kamuzu Stadium — is in the state of ruins. No TNM Super League match is being played there except social football games.

Football and athletics have just been provided with a state of the art venue, the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe — built with funding from the Chinese government but after 53 years of Independence, netball is still being played on outdoor hard concrete surface.

Our pride in sports, netball, suffer a lot to play their favourite sport in scorching heat and when it rains games are abandoned. Really? After 53 years of Independence?

Our dear national netball team, the Queens, have created glamour in the sport at international tournaments that it has managed to export a player in the name of Mwawi Kumwenda but instead of grabbing this chance to open the doors for others we are shutting it out but refusing to be modern.

Every budget prepared by all sports disciplines is always cut down and not a single Member of Parliament rises to object. These MPs also do not ask for modern sports facilities in their areas but just police posts, bridges and roads.

Let’s be serious with sport because it’s a serious business. Out there, sport is treated with respect it deserves and when the government shows commitment, the corporate world comes in to support because its glamour is good for marketing visibility.

Still, we can be proud that after been known by the world as a corrupt nation and plunders of public coffers, we can take delight that we have been at peace for 53 years.

God Bless Malawi.

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