With so many soccer academies popping up around Malawi, it’s only a matter of time before players start making it into Europe’s top leagues and competitionsDespite being a country of 18 million people, Malawi has long punched above its weight and spending power in the international sporting arena, excelling in everything from soccer to netball.
However, recently people have seen that there’s potential money to be made from developing young sporting talent in the country before sending it out to professional clubs and teams in places like Europe and the US.
While it is still up for debate whether such practices are truly beneficial to athletes and Malawi as a whole, there is no doubt that more young Malawians playing sport can only be a good thing, both for personal development and health reasons.
In this article, we will look at the sports academies and clubs who are pushing the boundaries of what is possible for Malawian athletes, as some of their charges try to break into the big leagues abroad.
There has been a major surge in soccer academies in Malawi over the last decade, as ex-players return to their former stomping grounds, wanting to develop the soccer stars of tomorrow, as well as filling the void left by the Surestream academy that unfortunately closed its doors in 2016.
These days, one of the top soccer academies in the game is Ascent Soccer, a project put together by former player George Maguire as well as Thom Mkolongo who acts as the academy’s director and 1st team coach.
Another fantastic academy is the one set up recently by Malawian FA chief Walter Nyamilandu, which promises to be a state-of-the-art setup once it is fully up and running.
Other excellent academies that are churning out high-level soccer talent include Play Football Malawi and the Kangaroo Academy, with the latter’s women’s side recently pulling off a huge shock win against the women’s national team.
While soccer is undoubtedly king when it comes to popularity in Malawi, basketball is not too far behind, with young players able to look up to the likes of Mphatso Gift Zilemba who has played as far afield as China.
One of the biggest grassroots proponents of the game in Malawi are the Bravehearts, whose club runs both women’s and men’s teams, which compete in national and international competitions. According to the club’s Facebook feed, they were keeping a close eye on the NBA championship series that recently took place, and who knows how long it will take before a Braveheart bred player makes it onto the NBA odds lines alongside Lebron and Co.? With more and more African players being scouted by American franchises and colleges, it seems like it is only a matter of time.
If soccer and basketball are the sports of choice for men in Malawi, then netball is undoubtedly the most popular among women, whose national netball team is leading not just in Africa but also in the world.
In 2019 they finished an incredible 6th at the World Championships which is in line with their world ranking. Meanwhile, three of their team play in foreign leagues, with Joyce Mvula and Loreen Ngwira both playing in England and Mwai Kumwenda plying her trade in Australia.
While there are already plans for Malawian authorities to set up an official academy to rival the soccer one they have built, for now, most development goes through the Mary Waya Netball Academy, which continues to cultivate some of the best netball talent on the entire planet.
With the sport of netball getting a new cash injection in countries like the UK, backed by broadcast companies such as Sky Sports; it may not be long before more Malawian superstars are found playing on foreign parquet. And these are just a few examples of sports in which Malawi will soon dominate.