Chess Association of Malawi (Chessam) president Susan Namangale says the country is ready to host the 2021 Africa Individual Chess Championship despite facing a K10 million deficit.
There were doubts on the 10-day competition, which rolls into action today at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe, but Namangale yesterday said nothing will stop them from hosting the contest that has so far received a K2 million boost from the Malawi Revenue Authority and subsidised accommodation rates from Golden Peacock.
“Yes, it’s true, we are still short on finances and we are struggling. However, we are managing within the limited resources and we are set for the continental showpiece,” she said.
Despite that, the local chess governing body’s president said they still have hope that “the government could come to our rescue as this is a big event that needs support”.
But the Malawi National Council of Sports acting-executive secretary Henry Mereka yesterday said it could be difficult for the government to offer financial support because of Chessam’s “last-minute” request for assistance.
“Initially, Chessam only asked for government’s approval on hosting the event and said they were fully covered by their international bodies as regards to funding,” he said.
“But we were surprised a few weeks ago when Chessam came back to us saying they need financial support. Government follows strict public finance management principles that require a minimum of three-month prior notice on funding request, but this did not happen with Chessam. Therefore, it will be difficult for government to offer financial support.”
Mereka added that they also had some reservations on the event because the hosting of such an international competition requires more than finances for it to be of highest quality.
“This is the second time Chessam is doing this; recently, when they had an event in Morocco, they told us everything was sorted out before asking for government support in the eleventh hour. This is not a good habit,” he said.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Ulemu Msungama concurred with Mereka that government was not approached in good time.
“Everywhere, proper procedures need to be followed for things to work out. I urge sports associations to stop embarrassing the government in this manner,” he said.
As of yesterday, a number of chess players from Algeria, Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa and Namibia arrived ahead of the event.
Chessam spokesperson Alfred Chimthere said when registration closed last weekend, a total of 116 players, including eight grandmasters (GMs), were on the list.
Two Algerian GMs Bellahcene Bilel and Haddouche Mohamed are expected to set ablaze the chessboards alongside their Egyptian counterparts Amin Baseem, Adly Ahmed, Fawzy Adham, Hesham Abdelrahman and women grandmaster (WGM) Wafa Shahenda.
The list, which comprises 71 male and 45 female players, also has 20 international masters (IMs) and 18 fide masters (FMs) and 18 candidate masters (CMs).
FM Joseph Mwale, who is the country’s highest rated chess player, said Malawian players are not intimidated by the foreign legion and they will strive to make Malawi proud.
No Malawian player has ever finished within the top-10 bracket at the Africa individual Chess Championship.