Welcome aboard Hon. Richard Chimwendo-Banda; Reminder — you are Sports Minister, not football minister

Welcome to the world of sports, Honourable — you have some honourable young men and women you have to serve and you have to do so across the board.

Chimwendo Banda, new Minister of Sport

The citizenry has always been proud when our athletes do well both locally and internationally just as the Flames made us all (and am sure including even yourself, Honourable) to swell with honour when they qualified for their first-ever knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroun — in their third AFCON appearance.

The Queens have represented the country well at the international stage and have created more glamour everywhere they go to participate — at the Commonwealth Games; the World Netball Cup; the Fast5, Test Series; the COSANA; the African Championship — you name it.

There are several who brought medals in disability sports but little is mentioned of their feat as it ends where it was reported from — the media. The rest of the nation — including sports authorities from your office — tend to turn a blind eye to their achievements.


But as soon as the Flames beat Zimbabwe in the group stages creating an opportunity to qualify for the knockout stages if they beat or draw with Senegal in their last group match, people with lots of money to spare — including President Lazarus Chakwera — came forward to pledge millions to the players if they did qualify.

Several companies came forward with pledges including rewarding plots land to Man of the Match award winners, Gabadinho Mhango and goalkeeper Charles Thom — who both said this was an honour not just to them as individuals but to the whole team.

They were sneering at the gesture that this is team work and whatever brilliance they can make on the pitch is because everyone else was at their best.

This is where I want to dwell on, Honourable Minister — and I hope you have quickly adjusted by disrobing from being a national security agent to social recreation, a world of glamour coupled with serious business.

As soon as your predecessor, Ulemu Msungama (surprisingly he followed the Flames to Cameroun and in what capacity, I don’t know) was appointed Minister of Sports, he attacked Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu for showing allegiance to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and during his meeting with him later on, he asked him to be apolitical or resign.

I reported then that while Walter might have gone overboard in his blatant show of his allegiance to the DPP but then it was his right of association. What he did wrong, perhaps, was to be actively involved in politics — if he really did — because being captured wearing DPP-branded beret is not a crime.

FAM president Walter Nyamilandu

Even my fellow accomplished journalist, Idriss Ali Nassah — writing on his Facebook wall had said it is not on for the Minister of Sports to move to remove Walter.

Idriss had said: “We should not act as if we are — to borrow a famous phrase — in the Republic of Yada Yada, where politicians are deluded into thinking they have powers to hire and fire at whim. Walter Nyamilandu has got to go, but do it the smart way.”

To which Tawina Tembo responded: “The affiliates must move on him by calling for an EGM to call for his ouster for bringing politics into the game.“

While William Mpasu’s comment was: “From the comments, it would appear, if Walter had supported Tonse then he would be OK. In my view, l think he should only go if, as Idriss Ali Nassah says, he hasn’t delivered on the promise.”


More good debate followed on what was needed to make football great again on the pitch because administratively, FAM has done extremely well in terms of putting up infrastructure and in Walter’s long tenure of office the Flames have qualified twice to the AFCON after the 2010 edition.

Honourable Minister, I reminded Msungama at that time that for football — and any other sports to do well on the pitches, courts and running tracks — needs adequate funding. The Flames have not been doing well in the past mostly because from the grassroots, football hasn’t been well funded.

In reminding Msungama that he is Minister of Sports, not just for football, I said his first port of call as Minister on familiarization visit (I hope you won’t repeat this nonsense but choose to do it incognito through reports presented to you) should have, perhaps been at Netball Association of Malawi (NAM).

Former Sports Minister Msungama

That’s the sport that is putting Malawi on the map, Hon. Minister and it is the sport any Minister or the President should concentrate on.

When the Vice-President Saulos Chilima, Chakwera himself and several individuals of high standing in society supported the FAM fundraising activities in ‘Kuipatsa Flames Moto’, some sections saw it as fruitless venture whose energy should have been channeled to netball.

I argued with the critics that this was a FAM initiative from which Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) should borrow a leaf and if Chakwera, Chilima and several individuals of high standing in society won’t support it, then we would have an argument to stand by it.

I reminded Msungama that as Sports Minister he should follow up the pledge that former President late Bingu wa Mutharika — may his soul continue to rest in perfect peace — promised to built a state of the art indoor stadium like the ones the Queens play on when they participate at high profile world tournaments.

I reminded him that Bingu made the pledge not from his pocket but as government funding. Happily, the Minister (I am just guessing) followed up on this pledge and Chakwera presided over the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the state of the art facility in Lilongwe to be name after Malawi netball’s legend — coach late Griffin ‘Zagallo’ Saenda. (This reminds me to make a follow up on its construction progress).

I pleaded with Msungama and I repeat it for your ears, Honourable, that this is not the age where netballers should be playing their local games on open air and on concrete courts — NO. It’s time they were accorded decent infrastructure in all regions so that more girls can be inspired to take up the sport.

President Lazarus Chakwera laying foundation stone for the indoor complex

These are structures where netball can be generating its own resources through entry tickets. I reminded Msungama that elsewhere it’s not cheap to watch high profile netball matches.

A ticket to a match when the Queens were invited for Test Series against England cost over K10,000 and that was years back. Here at home, people watch netball free of charge.

NAM cannot host international matches simply because we do not have the right infrastructure. World top teams like England, New Zealand, Australia, Jamaica or even South Africa can’t be invited here for Test Series.

Netball action at BYC

As opposed to this State of the art complex elsewhere

Let me remind you that Test Series are not ordinary games — they are not just friendlies but are sanctioned by world netball governing body, IFNA. If NAM was to have decent infrastructure, it could afford to invite these world top teams for Test Series or even host tournaments.

If the Queens play against these teams a lot of times, they might find the formula to beat them and rise further up the rankings than just competing to be Africa’s top side against Uganda and arch rivals South Africa.

NAM needs more players to join the competition for places in the national team by having excellent facilities to attract more to join the sport from all regions through constant lucrative tournaments.

Malawi’s top chess player Joseph Mwale

I further reminded Msungama — and please this is being passed on to you, Honourable — that it is not just netball but other sports as well such as volleyball, basketball, athletics, chess, tennis, rugby, cricket etc that need excellent infrastructure and funding.

Chess, for example, has the potential to gloom a Grandmaster. Its association has a very strong training programme for schools and is producing excellent players.

Parents dig deep from their pockets to have their kids trained. Malawi’s South Africa-based top rated player, Joseph Mwale set up an online academy and is training some players at a fee who are in the national squad that will participate in an online World Olympiad from this month end to August.

This cost of training the players for the Olympiad should have been met by the government and that’s where Msungama, then Minister, I appealed to that he should intervene and refund the parents what they have spent and carry on the burden from there.


I suggested to Msungama — and that goes to you as well — that he should also liaise with Education Minister to revitalize the past system of having disciplines like netball, athletics, chess, volleyball, basketball etc as part of extracurricular activities in schools as one way of developing sports.

Let us all desist from making emotional pledges for the Flames. Borrow a leaf from the investment that FDH Bank has made available for the Flames as official sponsors for the past six years.

Here is a recap for you, Honourable Minister — FDH Bank started sponsoring the Flames in 2016 at K30 million a year before doubling it in 2018 and further increased the sponsorship to K120 million.

Apart from being official partner of the Flames, FDH Bank also sponsors the country’s highest cup competition, the FDH Bank Cup.

When the country was celebrating the Flames’ historic qualification, FAM paid a special tribute to FDH Bank for the invaluable contribution it has given towards the football development in the country whose fruits of investment have been manifested in the excellent performance at the 2021 AFCON.

We need such kind of support rather than empty cash pledges to the players that is more like a bet because once they lose, the benefactor keeps their money.

The replica of the coach to be bought

But not so with FDH Bank — after the team bowed out, it has come forward that on top of the investment they pledge to continue, they would buy a special state-of-art bus for the team just like what each of the 2021 AFCON participating team had a special coach painted in their national colours and their names emblazoned on the sides.

This not may be deemed as important but football, just like any sport, is supposed to be accorded the glamour it deserves. The coach being pledged by FDH Bank shall make us proud any time soon when we shall see it ferrying our stats or a visiting team.

I plead to FDH Bank to consider buying two — one decorated with the Flames colours and another decorated in FAM’s colours to ferry visiting team. In the same breath, I challenge other wellwishers to consider providing this second coach for FDH to focus on the special Flames coach.

The investment we tend to give the Flames, Honourable Minister, should also be extended to the rest of the sports disciplines which might present the challenges they face and it should be upon yourself and your technocrats to assist them secure sponsorship partners.

Once again, welcome aboard our world, and once again you are Sports Minister — not Minister of Football.