Minister of Youth and Sports Enoch Chihana yesterday swallowed his pride and said he would put in writing his directive that FAM should provide Flames players with Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) houses as a way of motivating them.
The move might put to rest a two-year blame game among officials from the ministry, Sports Council and the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) over the directive the minister made in 2012, with FAM saying in the absence of a written document, it had nowhere to start to implement the directive.
Initially, Chihana insisted that his directive did not necessarily need a written document to be effected.
But when Nation on Sunday asked what is difficult about putting in writing his order as requested by FAM, the minister said he will consult his principal secretary and he will produce the document soon.
A blame-game had ensued among Chihana, officials from his office, Sports Council and FAM over who was responsible for the delay of the Flames players housing project.
Chihana directed in 2012 that regular national team players should be offered Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) houses as a way of improving their welfare.
Two years down the line, while FAM said it is yet to receive an official letter from the Youth and Sports Ministry through the Sports Council to fulfil the minister’s directive, Youth and Sports Principal Secretary Justin Saidi said they are waiting for FAM to give them names of the first beneficiaries of the project.
Sports Council executive secretary George Jana, whose body directly deals with FAM on behalf of government, declined to comment on the matter.
This week Chihana accused the three entities of disregarding his directive on the project.
But in an interview on Wednesday, FAM general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda said: “This is indeed a good initiative, but we do not know where to start from in the absence of an official letter from the ministry. We need to be given a clear-cut criterion on how we should go about the issue.”
Former Flames captain Peter Mponda said progress would have been made on the project had the minister consulted the council and FAM before making the directive because it would require a lot of effort to identify potential beneficiaries.
Mponda concurred with former FAM chief executive officer Charles Nyirenda that the housing scheme is a nonstarter considering that there are no permanent national team players anywhere in the world.
Nyirenda said the most viable option would have been to develop and improve Malawi football as a business entity so that the players can generate enough income to buy houses on their own.
“In any case, how many players can obtain an MHC house these days when we do not see the organisation constructing more houses in our localities? Worse still, MHC sold most of its houses. Let us not talk football issues in an amateurish way,” said Nyirenda.
But Saidi said what matters most is FAM’s seriousness to submit the said names to his ministry and wait for the results.
“It is FAM that knows the players. We expect them to submit to us names of footballers that deserve the houses. It is difficult on our part to dictate to the association on the possible beneficiaries. Ask FAM if it has made any attempt to submit the names to us,” he said.
In response, Nyirenda said: “But we need to be guided on how long the player should be in the national team to deserve a house. Is it every player that earns a Flames’ call-up? Is it those that have been in the national team for three years or above? What about those that have retired from national duty? I tell you, we do not know where to start from.”
In an exclusive interview with Nation on Sunday, Chihana said as a minister, his duty is to direct projects, which are necessary to improve the standards of sports in the country so that his ministry, the council and FAM should implement.
“It seems these entities want me to look as a failure. I approached them several times to find out how they are implementing the project, but they always say ‘we are still working on it’.
“Maybe it is not their priority, but I am concerned on behalf of government because we want our sports personalities to be living in good houses,” said Chihana.
On criteria to be used to identify the beneficiaries of the project which his ministry is ready to fund, Chihana said it is up to council and FAM to chart the decisive factors.
“Of course, we know houses are in short supply in the country, but there are still ways the players can get them. We know there are some people living in MHC houses illegally and that would be our target,” said Chihana, adding that an agreement has already been made on the issue with the Ministry of Lands and Housing.
Minister of Lands and Housing Henry Phoya confirmed that there is a working relationship with the Ministry of Sports on the scheme as indicated by Chihana. But Phoya could not shed more light on the agreement.