NAM changes Chichewa name for netball to ‘Mpira wa Manja’

* The Chichewa description previously used of ‘ntchembere mbaya‘ deemed demeaning

* In real sense, the sport is not only for women, girls and men play it as well

By Duncan Mlanjira

After a two-day exhaustive and fruitful discussion on whatsapp forum with sports journalists, Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) has announced that it has resolved to officially change the Chichewa name for netball to ‘Mpira wa Manja’.

A statement from NAM president, Khungekhile Matiya says all along, the sport has locally been called ‘ntchembere mbaya‘ — literally translated as the sport that is played by women who are mothers to more than two children.

Khungekile Matiya

“In real sense, the sport is not only for women — girls and men play it as well,” Matiya said in the statement. “In this regard, sustaining the ‘ntchembere mbaya’ name takes away the diversity the sport is embracing.

“We appeal to all stakeholders, more especially journalists, to immediately adopt this new name.

“Together, we can end discrimination and embrace the diversity which netball is promoting locally and globally,” she said.

It all started on Monday on NAM-Media Connect whatsapp group when The Nation Publications journalist Clement Chinoko suggested — more as just trying to be humorous — that ‘ntchembere mbaya’ is not appealing to which it attracted an avalanche of responses from the rest of the scribes.

Young girls play the sport countrywide

Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) journalist Patrick Simango “totally agreed” with Chinoko, saying he had been “arguing all along that it’s demeaning to netball players who are not ‘ntchembere’”.

Simango said the sport is not only played by women who are mothers to more than two children but young girls as well and did not augur well with youngsters who might be ridiculed that they play a sport that is associated with mothers.

Simango explained that the definition ‘ntchembere mbaya’ was coined by former MBC sports presenter, Albert Ndalama but it was out of humor to describe that the beauty of the game is that it is even played by women who have two or three children.

“The name has ever since been adopted,” Simango said, adding that the proper description used in most media is “masewero a mpira wa manja wa netball”.

The NAM president Matiya then joined and suggested to just call it ‘mpira wa manja’ in the same way football is defined as ‘mpira wa miyendo.

“It can start with you esteemed members [of the media],” she said. “Netball is also played by young girls who have not given birth. Let us stop using this word.”

Peace Chawinga-Kalua threw the ball back at the journalists, saying the name was coined by the scribes thinking they were doing the sport a huge favour but it ended up with a sour taste.

Chawinga-Kaluwa (2nd right)

She said the netball fraternity itself have been trying since the 1990s to find an alternative name but to no avail because  ntchembere mbaya’ kept being used by the media.

Others tried to argue against naming netball as ‘mpira wa manja’ since other popular sports disciplines such as volleyball and basketball also use hands and are defined as ‘masewero a mpira wa manja a volleyball or basketball.

This reporter’s contribution that, since it seems it is difficult to find a proper Chichewa definition, maybe we can just us the English name, was shot down.

I had given example that my late grandmother used to call it ‘netibolo’ and that one can go to the remotest part of Malawi and they will understand what you mean if you mention netball in whatever language you are communicating.

Mwawi Kumwenda, Malawi’s first netball export

The Nation’s Bobby Kabango came in to say Chichewa orthography doesn’t have a direct word or stand alone word for netball — not even football.

“We purely translate it or borrow a word from English. Most countries struggle to have a direct word [for netball]. Only in Uganda they call it ‘kubaka’ — a stand alone word which is derived from the action of receiving when one throws.

“But most they just have a pure translation ‘mpira wamanja’. For example, in Botswana they call it ‘kgwele ya diatla’. Kgwele means mpira, while football is ‘dinao’.

Appeal from Sandra Sharon Kamanga

“It is the same in Zambia, they call it ‘mupila wa kumanja’. As Khungekile Matiya is putting it, let’s just have the same.”

It was at the juncture that Matiya — being mindful that netball was first a popular hand sport in Malawi before basketball or volleyball — then people will first associate the name ‘Mpira wa Manja’ to netball.

After further deliberation back and forth, case was closed and Khungekile went ahead to issue the statement of change of name.

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