By Duncan Mlanjira
The media is always the best partner of sports in general and football in particular and this is what Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu Manda pledges to Raise the Bar once voted into office for another term.
This is in the manifesto under the theme ‘Raise The Bar’, which Nyamilandu unveiled on Thursday evening Amaryllis Hotel in Blantyre ahead of the elective general assembly scheduled for Mangochi on December 14.
“We shall endeavour to forge a better working relationship with the media by improving access to information and being media friendly at all times in a manner that that will ensure that information that is being shared is accurate and timely so that the general public is well informed, ed- ucated and enlightened,” he said.
“We shall create a dedicated point of contact for media information by assigning a media officer to accompany national teams when going abroad, to provide information on proceedings out there.
“FAM shall assign the media officer to provide minute-by-minute updates when national team is playing to be shared to each and every media houses back home.
“FAM shall also support training and development of journalists so that they are equipped with techniques for professional reporting and to support production of a quarterly magazine.”
He also said FAM reward football journalists through annual gala awards that shall be managed by an independent body.
He also asked the office of the General Secretary to conduct press briefings to update the general public on current information, at least, once week.
“Coaches and team managers of respective national teams shall be asked to conduct press briefings, at least, once a week whenever their squad is in camp and to also optimize use of digital platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and website for corporate updates and fan engagement.”
On the engagement with the media, FAM is already doing well, as observed by COSAFA Media Group during the COSAFA Under-17 which FAM hosted last month at Mpira Stadium.
As part of the COSAFA Under-17 legacy, a workshop for practicing journalists was organized by COSAFA Media Group in conjunction with FAM and Football Journalists Association (FJA).
At the end of the journalists workshop, COSAFA Media Group made a special mention in its report on Competitions & Communications Director Gonezgani Zakazaka, who acts as a media liaison officer.
Zakazaka, a journalist who once worked for the Nation newspaper, is a darling to football journalists as he is always on his feet in organising press conferences and assisting with vital information of FAM’s competitions.
“It was great meeting you all yesterday, thank you for attending the FAM/COSAFA Media Workshop, and your invaluable inputs.
“A big word of thanks goes to Mr Gome Zakazaka. In our humble opinion and experience, he is also a great exponent of an officer, who takes most seriously his duty in engaging with the media in the most professional and constructive manner,” said a statement from COSAFA.
On his part, Zakazaka said he feels so humbled that this is how COSAFA Media Group think of FAM’s delivery of work.
“These are really words of encouragement because they motivate me and the rest of us at FAM to work harder so that we handle issues professionally.
“I’ve learnt a lot from the COSAFA Media Group in the way they handle issues at every COSAFA tournament. They seriously take issues of linking up with the media that it is informed because it is our link to the public.
“That’s the same approach we are adopting as we aim to be very professional at all levels of the game to take our games seriously.
“This is not not just play as it is taken by some circles, this is a serious industry and as such it should be treated with the mentality that it is a serious business.
“So it is really encouraging to hear such words from COSAFA Media Group and we will continue to working hard to ensure that we keep our media informed, keep our media updated and we keep maintaining good working relationships with the media.
“Without the media the public cannot know what programmes we have we can’t be known
FJA president Joy Ndovi of the Nation Publication, thanked COSAFA Media Group and FAM for organising the workshop, saying it was fantastic to learn from reputable veteran football journalists sharing their experiences with them.
“What made the workshop unique is that it concentrated on modern trends in football journalism such us use of social media platforms like twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
“For most of the participants this was their first-ever workshop and I am sure they learned a lot. We look forward to better football reporting,” he said.
FJA was formed early this year and has quite a rich and vibrant pool of journalists, whom Ndovi described as meticulous in the job but have learnt quite some useful tips to make football reporting unique.
The workshop was facilitated by veteran journalists, Nick Said of
COSAFA Media, Thomson Reuters, ESPN and SuperSport as well as Velile Mnyandu of SABC Sport, LIMAr Media.
Topics handled included roles and responsibility of journalists, planning for stories and how to handle an aggressive or non-compliant interviewee, a scenario many journalists encounter from many football administrators.
In many instances, journalists face hostilities from coaches that has lost a game or his job, a player that has axe to grind with the media as well as an association president who is under fire.
“You need to be prepared for this. Never go in guns blazing but be ‘low-key’ with your first two or three questions. The interviewee may be expecting hostility from you, so let them know you are not going for the jugular,” said Nick.
During the topic of dealing with FAM, the delegates shared with the facilitators that Zakazaka and other directors like CEO Alfreda Gunda and marketing director Limbani Matola that they try as much as possible to make their jobs easier.
There was also a Skype interactive session with world-renowned African football journalist, Mark Gleeson, the common feature of Africa Cup of Nations as a commentator.
COSAFA also held a four-day Administration and Management course at Mpira Village that attracted over 30 local-based football administrators affiliated to FAM.