Name it Griffin Saenda Arena, not Griffin Saenda indoor netball court

Opinion by Duncan Mlanjira

It’s sweet music to the ear that the new sports structure that government will construct in Lilongwe shall be named after the revered netball coach, Griffin ‘Zagallo’ Saenda — who passed on on Thursday, November 26.

The funeral was spiced with netball displays

At his funeral service held at Blantyre Youth Centre, where Saenda spent his professional life as Southern Region sports development officer and as the national netball team coach, Minister of Sports Ulemu Msungama declared that the indoor netball facility that will be built on the grounds of Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, will be named after this hero — who transformed the country’s sports landscape.

The casket decorated with Malawi colours

I am thrilled of this decision because the man, nicknamed Zagallo after Brazil’s greatest football coach, Mario, deserves the honour.

In his words, Msungama said this facility will be named ‘Griffin Saenda Indoor Netball Court.

Msungama giving medal of honour posthumously

First of all, the word indoor court are used to describe a sports structure that is roofed and the proper way to name it is ‘Arena’. I would rather it were to be called Griffin Saenda Arena or any other qualifying name.

In other places, there are names like Goodson Park or Stamford Bridge but that does not mean these football stadia are a recreation park or a bridge.

Honour for a great sportsman

Just to say indoor netball court as an official name is just too basic — not worth giving it in honour of this great professional sportsman.

It’s the same as Parliament Building in Lilongwe — for God’s sake, it should just have been named Malawi Parliament.

A standing ovation

However, let us applaud that Saenda’s name will keep reverberating in our minds that there lived a good soul who had the passion on sports so great that he was a jack of all trades — he could coach netball, tennis, basketball, volleyball and football.

Thus if we name it as a general name and not attach it just to netball, it will serve as a multi-purpose facility to host netball, tennis, basketball, volleyball and indoor football.

Saenda was a hero in life and has gone to rest in perfect peace in the same stature as attested by the throng of people from different walks of life who graced the funeral ceremony at BYC all the way to HHI cemetery.

He coached the likes of legends Mary Waya, Peace Chawinga, Connie Mhone and many others, who still stand tall in their respective lives after netball.

Peace and Saenda in those
days with her mentor

The Minister himself acknowledged that Saenda did so much for Malawi’s sports — “a great leader who dedicated his life to developing sports in general and netball in particular”.

“He has done so much and achieved so many accolades probably making him the most impactful athlete in the recent past. 

“He nurtured numerous young talents that would form a formidable team that went on to conquer the entire African continent and beyond.”

The Minister also took cognizance that what made Saenda stand tall is that he guided Malawi to a historical bronze medal at the Fast5 Netball Series in 2016.

Until his death, Saenda was the Queens’ Technical Director and head coach for Diamonds.

“His legacy as coach will clearly leave a lasting impression on so many up and coming athletes. His death has, therefore, robbed the nation of an inspirational figure whose achievements shall live with each one of us for a very long time.

“His glorious legacy will forever have a place in the netball history of the country. His death can only give us courage to remember his bravery, hard work, dedication to work and the impact that he has had in a social aspect as well.

“Our sincere sympathy and prayers extend to the late coach’s family, relations, netball fraternity and the entire nation. May God comfort us all and rest the soul of Griffin ‘Zagallo’ Saenda in eternal peace.”