Out of anger and frustrations, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) shocked Malawians when it announced the withdrawal of Malawi Senior National Football team from African Youth Championship (CHAN) and African Cup of Nations (Afcon) competitions citing financial problems and Government’s refusal to hire an expatriate coach for the team.
After being turned down by Malawi Government from hiring an experienced and well qualified expatriate coach, the FA, without even consulting the former, decided to withdraw the team from the continental competitions.
Was the decision the last resort after exhausting all available alternatives? The association’s executive members made the decision out of anger without considering consequences that will come after this.
Yes, we cannot deny that Government has let the association down by not providing enough funding for the main football team as well as the junior teams. Former Sports Minister Grace Chiumia made it clear in Parliament that sports is not a priority and this was evidenced when only K36 million was allocated to FAM.
But the FA cannot use this as an excuse. What’s the use of having a marketing team if you know that it can’t woo sponsors for the team? For how long will the FA wait for Government’s funding?
Kandani Ngwira, a sports commentator articulated the bad side of FAM’s decision:
“If the association made this decision voluntarily as part of long term strategy to groom young players into fine footballers, then we see nothing wrong in it but the FA was forced to do this due to lack of funding.
“If the decision will not be reversed, FAM will deny itself potential revenue accumulated from gate revenue and television rights especially against teams like Cameroon and Morocco,” he said.
As an addition, FAM rushed to suspend our participation in CHAN and AFCON. If it is about lack of funding they should have opted out of AFCON and not CHAN.
CHAN is less expensive. It is for local players so no expenses on bringing in foreign region. Not to mention the fact that organisers deliberately ensure that groups involve teams from the same region to lessen expenses.
For example, Malawi cannot be paired with teams from North Africa or West Africa because that would mean more expenses.
On top of that it is a competition set up to groom up and coming players by giving them international football experience. So if Malawi wanted to groom young players this should have been the competition to take advantage of. Withdrawing is therefore a missed opportunity.
Revenue aside, this decision is also a stumbling block to our local players who would have used the said competitions to get international exposure. Building a team does not necessarily mean we should stop participating in continental competitions.
The FA must also fix its relationship with government which is the number one sponsor of the national team. From the look of things, the relationship between the two sides has gone sour. The FA should start questioning the reasons behind Government’s reluctance to fund the national team.
The FA should rescind this decision before the deadlines. We cannot afford to pull out from competitions yet our team is already in shambles. We need these competitions to build our confidence in readiness for 2021 Afcon. Let’s engage Government and all key stakeholders into talks but pulling out should be the last option.
Lastly, the country’s football governing body should refrain from making decisions out of anger and frustrations. This is a national team we are talking about. It represents millions of people and not individuals in the name of executive members.