Some parents of Malawi Under-17 national football team players have expressed dismay with Football Association of Malawi’s (FAM) for allegedly abusing minors after international competitions.
Two parents, whom we have kept their identities confidential to protect their children, said considering that minors do not qualify for allowances after international engagements, FAM should do better to motivate the lads with school fees and meaningful educational materials.
The Under 17 national team won bronze at 2016 and 2017 editions of the Cosafa Cup, but the players seem not to benefit from their sweat since they cannot earn money by virtue of being minors.
“FAM promised to help the players in their education such as paying for their school fees and providing education materials but two months after the Under 17 Cosafa Cup in Mauritius, there is nothing on the table for my son,” she said.
“They also told us that they would appreciate the players’ efforts with at least K300 000, but I have just heard that to each parent or guardian of the players, FAM has paid K50 000.”
Under-17 players are, most of the times, called into camp when school is in session between June and July.
The parents argued that FAM’s failure to ensure the players’ academic education is not affected, is against Fifa policy, which stipulates that member associations must ensure minor players’ academic endeavours come first before football.
Another parent claimed that the only reward his son got after featuring for Malawi at last year’s Cosafa event, was a school bag, something he felt “was an insult to the contribution the young players make to the country’s football development”.
One of the under-17 players at the recent Cosafa Cup, said FAM took back the paraphernalia they received at the tournament.
He said: “FAM grabbed all the sportswear, including the sandals I used at the tournament. I was only left with a pair of soccer boots. I thought the equipment was now mine as a motivational tool that I could keep as souvenir of my experience in Mauritius. I am really put off by FAM’s action.”
However, FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda said they retained the equipment because they would like to use it for the next international events.
“We are unlike well-to-do countries that let national team players take home their paraphernalia used at an event. We are poor and we have to retain the equipment for use in our next events. We cannot afford to buy equipment for every tournament. This is why even on national team jerseys, we do not write names of individual players, but the country’s name,” he said.
On why they are not fulfilling their ‘promise’ of paying for the players’ school fees and buying ‘meaningful educational materials,’ Gunda said it is not their full responsibility to educate the players.
“If we pay the school fees then we are creating a bursary and that is not realistic on our part. Do you mean every year we take junior players to international events we should be responsible in terms of their school fees? That is not practical,” he said.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said though under-17 players do not qualify to get allowances, FAM can use several ways to motivate the players.
He said: “Actually, FAM cannot spend much money to motivate a 17-year-old, unlike the senior national team players whose demands are high. There is no excuse for what is happening to these lads.” n