Prophet Shepherd Bushiri has offered the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) a timely rescue package to enable the Flames to take part in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and 2018 Championship of African Nations (Chan) tournaments.
The development is likely to cause a buzz of excitement among soccer enthusiasts following FAM’s recent announcement that it will pull out from both continental tournaments due to financial constraints.
Part of the press release issued on Thursday by Bushiri’s communications officer Ephraim Nyondo, reads: “President of South Africa-based Shepherd Bushiri Investments [SBI], Prophet Shepherd Bushiri has offered to bankroll the Flames to participate in [Afcon and Chan].
The billionaire entrepreneur, who is also leader and founder of Enlightened Christian Gathering [ECG], says the onus is now on FAM to approach him using the right procedures and also present a budget which will be scrutinised by his finance personnel.”
And in an interview yesterday, Nyondo said the offer has already been made to FAM through its president Walter Nyamilandu.
“To that effect, we have asked them to submit a budget for consideration.
“The President [Peter Mutharika] encourages patriotism and as a loyal citizen who loves the country and the Flames, [Bushiri] has seen it wise to assist the Flames and ensure that they take part in Afcon and Chan,” he said.
Last year, Bushiri, popularly known as ‘Major 1’, also gave FAM K44 million to meet the costs of 2017 Afcon back-to-back qualifiers against Guinea’s Sylli Nationale.
Nyamilandu confirmed the offer in an interview yesterday.
“Indeed an offer has been made and we are very grateful, but we will consult on the matter with the necessary authorities,” he said.
Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) executive secretary George Jana said FAM will need to provide information with regard to the terms and the package being offered.
“They [FAM] will also be required to provide the agreement as regards the conditions surrounding the donation or sponsorship for approval by government before receipt.
“It must also be taken into consideration that the competitions comprise more games in future than the upcoming ones. Therefore, it is important that as the donation or ‘bailout’ is being considered, there is a plan or commitment for the rest of the games,” he said.
Flames captain Limbikani ‘Pupa’ Mzava hailed Bushiri for what he described as a timely gesture.
“The man of God is always there for us in times of need. If we had more people like him, our game would have developed.
“I hope the authorities will follow up on the offer because it is very rare that you get such an opportunity and bearing in mind that time is not on our side.
“This gives us hope that we will take part in the Nations Cup. It would be sad for us to forego such prestigious tournaments,” said Mzava from his Durban base in South Africa yesterday.
Soccer commentator George Kaudza Masina also described the gesture as timely.
“Coming at a time when there was a cloud of uncertainty regarding the Flames participation, this is good news. If we could have two or three people like him, our game would reach the desired lofty heights.
“Missing such tournaments would have far-reaching consequences, but my only hope is that FAM will negotiate for a long-term partnership with him because he has demonstrated patriotism and passion for the game,” he said.
Ironically, Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Henry Mussa has called for a meeting with FAM to try and find ways of ensuring that the Flames should not pull out of the tournaments as resolved by FAM.
In a press release issued last Sunday, FAM stated that: “During several rounds of consultations and discussions it was very clear that due to the current economic problems, the government will not be able to provide funding for the team for its participation in the two tournaments.
“[Therefore], having considered all the available options, and in accordance with required notices for withdrawal, it was further resolved that the Malawi national team be withdrawn from Chan competition by March 31 and from Afcon by April 30 2017, due to lack of funding.” n