Several barefoot athletes were on Saturday barred from taking part in athletics competition during the launch of Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
The athletes claimed they were barred from showcasing their talent by Central Region sports development officer Isaac Phiri.
Several activities like traditional dances, Chinese karate, and Malawi Defence Force displays were lined up to spice up the day.
Some of the athletes were Enelesi Aufi and Fatima Austin (from Andiamo Club in Balaka) and Sela Makhaza from Atsikana Apaulendo Private Secondary School.
Aufi told The Nation in an interview that she was disappointed when Phiri told her that she could not compete without shoes.
“I had been looking forward to this event and I was disappointed with what happened,” she said.
She justified her intention to compete without shoes, saying she does not feel comfortable with them.
On her part, Austin said her shoes got torn last month, so she had no choice but to compete bare footed.
Makhaza, accused Phiri and the Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) for barring them saying taking part would have exposed their poverty to well-wishers.
Phiri, who played the role of a starter at the event, refused to comment on the allegations when he was contacted on Sunday.
But Athletics Association of Malawi president Godfrey Phiri defended the sports officer, saying he had the association’s blessings as they could not allow a few athletes to embarrass them at the event.
Said the AAM president: “Days of amateur athletics are gone and we expect every athlete to look smart by wearing shoes.”
Khumbo Makwakwa won the 200m men’s race while Gift Kawale and Dennis Phiri finished second and third.
In women’s 200m race, Suzen Tengatenga was the winner followed by Stella Peter and Grace Ntukuta in third position.