* Claim that they inspected their home stadium together with Karonga District Council
* “The damages mentioned in FAM’s letter are no longer there”
*“You cannot make any decision without an assessment report which justifies your decision”
By Duncan Mlanjira
Karonga United is deeply enraged that Football Association of Malawi (FAM) decided to shift their FDH Bank Cup Round of 32 home encounter with Mighty Wanderers to Mzuzu Stadium and has since announced its withdrawal from the competition.
On Tuesday, FAM general secretary, Alfred Gunda wrote Karonga United of the change of venue for the match scheduled for Saturday, June 26 from Karonga Stadium to Mzuzu Stadium, saying that its Competitions Committee has noted that Karonga Stadium is not in good condition to host an elite match as per the FAM Club Licensing standards and FAM CoVID-19 football re-start guidelines, after it was vandalised on Sunday June 20.
FAM indicates that among others, “the stadium’s perimeter fence and main access gates were vandalised and would make it impossible for the match organisers to protect the players and technical officials, control access into the stadium and enforce CoVID-19 preventive measures”.
“With the match just four days away, we are of the view that the damages cannot be renovated for re-inspection and re-certification, as per the FAM Club Licensing regulations, in time for the said match.
“It is against this background that the FAM Competitions Committee, as guided by article 8.1 of the FDH Bank Cup Rules and Regulations, has re-scheduled the match at Mzuzu Stadium on Saturday 26th June 2021. All other protocols for the match will procced as arranged.”
In its scathing response, Karonga United’s chairman Mathews Tulombolombo says the decision to shift the game to Mzuzu is “without proper justification” and thus makes “a painful decision” to withdrawal from the competition”, saying they “don’t have any other option”.
Tulombolombo said together with officials from the owners of the stadium, Karonga District Council, they inspected it and alleges that the damages mentioned in FAM’s letter are no longer there.
“There are always small damages to the stadium in every game which are always maintained by the Council…I wish your inspection team could come and assess the ground rather than sitting in Blantyre making decisions basing on hearsay.
“We were expecting FAM to come to Karonga and together with us and Karonga District Council to inspect the stadium and produce an acceptable report that incorporate all stakeholders.
“You cannot make any decision without an assessment report which justifies your decision. We have experience worst hooliganism in Blantyre, fighting, yelling obscenities or throwing objects into the field, breaking of glasses and perimeter walls at Kamuzu Stadium, recently during Wanderers FC and Nyasa Bullets but such decisions were not made up to today, lets treat each other fairly and equally,” says Tulombolombo.
Karonga United beat Mighty Wanderers twice in first and second round of the TNM Super League — 2-0 at Kamuzu Stadium in the first round and 1-0 at the dreaded Karonga Stadium, which has proved to be a no-go zone arena for visitors as evidenced by some top teams having come back with battle scars.
Tulombolombo says: “At heart and as one who has devoted my entire career of over two decades to preparing Karonga United for excellence, service and greatness in football, this is a slap in the face and it will not go uncommented.”
He further says they are responding in the same spirit of oneness and solidarity, saying they want FAM and the whole Malawi to know they “are not the timid, spineless people that many have concluded” they are.
“As a team we are proud of what we have achieved so far and nobody will stop us. Without doubt, our sacrifices in driving this change in our football administration have lifted the spirit of many people here in Karonga, who have lost hope in redeeming the team from its death.
“Your actions have stirred up anger in many thousands of our people who are adversely affected by poor decision and bore the pains of a poorly coordinated and grossly disappointing FAM decision.”
“The excitement from the success which we have registered as Karonga United so far is huge and contagious and it can even be intoxicating. We have made huge investment in the team and we will not allow to be shafted.
“Unless you objectively and deeply assess your role in the acts of commission and omission that brought our soccer to this sorry state and make a strong commitment to purge yourselves totally of your attitude, character and behaviors that allowed things to get this bad in Malawi football before you decided to take a stand and step out, your character and moral foundation will not be able to carry the structure of the new Malawi Football we are agitating for and its time raise hands and go.
“Many of us were deeply offended about that stereotype of upcoming teams. Many people are really blinded to our undeniable interludes of brilliance and flashes of resilience that have built our team up today.
“We tried so hard to point your naysayers to the cacophony of accomplishments produced in the crucible of pains, hardships and harsh environment our team go through.
“But the harder we tried, the harder the actions of the few bad eggs within your ranks and the dead silence of the good ones in your fold to the issues that affect our football in the country. No matter how we speak our voices are always drowning.”
He further pleaded with the sponsors that they “also have a role to play in ensuring good decisions are made in the administration of the Cup” saying there are many fans “who are customers with FDH Bank in Karonga — they need also to benefit from such kind of initiatives”.
“No matter how small we are, we have powers to mobilize our people for a cause,” threatens Tulombolombo.
According to the 2021 FDH Cup Rules and Regulations, if any team withdrawals from the competition at national level, it shall be liable to a fine K2 million and in addition, the team shall be banned from participating in any competition organised by FAM or any of its affiliate bodies — including the TNM Super League — for a period of one year.
“As per Club Licencing Conditions it is compulsory for each Super League team to participate in the competition,” say the Rules and Regulations. Currently Karonga United are 5th in TNM Super League table.