Grass-roots football will suffer from the delay to roll out the Fisd Challenge Cup as the sponsor and Football Association of Malawi (FAM) have agreed to exclude district teams from this year.
The competition was expected to kick off last month, but Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development (Fisd), who signed a five-year sponsorship deal with FAM, is facing financial struggles to issue funding on time.
FAM competitions and communication director Gomezgani Zakazaka confirmed that the association and Fisd representatives met recently to map the way forward and resolved to exclude district teams.
“There were administrative issues we had to sort out with the sponsors and in the process we missed about six weeks on the calendar. Having missed those crucial six weeks, it meant if we maintained the usual format the calendar would stretch into the new year.
“So, we are currently looking at options on the format to ensure that we stay within the dates for the remaining part of the calendar,” he said in a response to a questionnaire.
Zakazaka said there is a possibilitt the competition could involve Super League teams only.
“There are a number of options we are exploring among them making it an all Super League teams competition, or including regional league teams or taking out regional league teams and going with Super League and districts teams only,” he said.
He added: “By next week we will announce the direction we will take, thus the one that will not affect the calendar.
“Those that will be affected by the decision that will be made should understand that it is in the best interest of our game.”
The normal arrangement is that Presidential Cup district champions compete in the tournament from the preliminary round.
In the latter stages, they are joined by the 16 Super League teams.
Currently Be Forward Wanderers are the defending champions.
On his part, Fisd marketing and communications manager Wezi Chiumia fell short of confirming the pending changes.
He played down the company’s financial challenges being the cause of the delay, insisting that every year they re-invent the competition’s format.
“Every year we unpack the tournament format at a press conference, so we can’t divulge any information about the format yet until that right time when we invite the media and other stakeholders to a media launch,” Chiumia said.
While insisting that they will sponsor the tournament, he dismissed assertions that the competition has delayed.
“As you recall in 2017 we launched on the 30th of September and last year we launched on the 16th of September, so you can see that we are within the time we usually kickoff,” Chiumia said.
But the 2019/20 calendar, which FAM issued earlier this year, shows that the launch was expected to take place on August 20 with the tournament kicking off on August 31.
However, Chiumia was noncommittal about when they expect the competition to start.
One of Fisd Limited directors, Kondwani Nanchukwa, attributed the problem to lack of financial inflow from projects the company is undertaking.
According to Nanchukwa, government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development owes the company in excess of K5 billion.
Reacting to the proposed format change, Dowa District Football Association general secretary Kondwani Kandiado described the decision to exclude the district teams as unwelcome development.
“Incorporating district teams is good as the competition helps to unearth local talents from the districts. Local players also get exposure and teams work hard to compete at regional or national level,” he said.
Kandiado has since asked FAM to rescind it’s decision and reconsider the district teams, saying: “It’s not too late.” n