Malawi is the only Fifa member that has a coach directly employed by government, a development Football Association of Malawi (FAM) says it puts them between a rock and a hard place when it comes to termination of contract in case of poor performance.
However, Ministry of Sports and Culture says the contract provides for checks and balances for the good of both parties.
FAM general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda recalls a 2013 scenario when the association recommended the firing of Kinnah Phiri, Jack Chamangwana and Young Chimodzi, but the coaches only ended up being relocated to other departments, in the process denying FAM a chance to hire a new coach.
But Ministry of Sports and Culture spokesperson Christopher Mbukwa said the coach’s contracts with government rewards performance and penalises non-performance.
Before 2012 the coach was directly employed by FAM until the Ministry of Sports and Culture decided to change its policy.
Under the new policy, the coach is employed on Grade C (P2) and gets a consolidated salary of K20.4 million per annum which translates to about K1.7 million per month.
Nyirenda said they were told of the policy change in 2012 when they were renewing the contracts of coach Kinnah Phiri, his assistant Young Chimodzi and technical director Jack Chamangwana.
He said: “We were negotiating the renewal of the coaches’ contracts when government wrote us that the policy had changed and that the coaches would be directly employed by them. To date, Malawi is the only country that has such a set up.
“By the way, if a coach is not performing, FAM cannot fire him. We can only recommend to government that we are not satisfied with the coach’s performance.”
Nyirenda said in the case of Kinnah, Chamangwana and Chimodzi, the coaches were redeployed to other government departments within the Ministry of Sports as sports regional officers.
“But while their contracts were running, we were unable to employ a new technical panel because there was no vote for their salaries,” he said.
FAM hired Eddington Ng’onamo, Patrick Mabedi and Ernest Mtawali as interim coaches to replace Kinnah and Chimodzi in March 2013.
The three were replaced four months later by Belgian expatriate Thom Saintfiet who offered his services on a voluntary basis.
After the Belgian left, Chimodzi was recalled as coach while Chamangwana returned as assistant coach in 2014 on a year-long contract.
When the duo failed to perform in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, FAM was forced to put them on a forced leave in June 2015 pending the expiry of their contracts and Mtawali was hired on temporary basis by FAM.
Upon the expiry of the duo’s contracts in August, Mtawali was offered a year-long contract with Burundian Nsanzurwino Ramadhan as his assistant.
But Mbukwa, argues that despite not being a signatory to the coach’s contract, FAM plays a pivotal role.
He said: “If there is proof of gross incompetency and inefficiency, FAM can recommend to government for termination of the services of the contract. In this case, government would follow the procedures enshrined in the contract which FAM plays a role in developing and framing.
“It should be mentioned that FAM is responsible for interviewing and negotiating the contract details with the coaches and proper safeguards have been incorporated in the contracts to ensure high level performance by both parties.”
The ministry spokesperson said although government employs the coaches, FAM are also free to hire another coach if not satisfied with the performance of the government paid one.
“Just like any other association, FAM can employ their own coaches independent of the government’s support,” he said.
Former Flames coach Chamangwana described the policy of having a Flames coach as a civil servant as a ‘win-win’ situation.
“It’s good that the national team coaches are civil servants. At least you are assured that you will see out your contract. And at the expiry of the contract, you get your benefits,” said Chamangwana.
“If you are under the FA, once you are in bad books with FAM officials, you are gone. With government, they analyse your performance and if you are performing, you can’t get fired.”
The former Young African (Yanga) coach observed that Malawian coaches should be grateful for civil servants.
“Elsewhere the association sometimes fails to pay the coach due to lack of funds. The coach can stay for several months without a salary. Nigeria is a good example where in February this year, Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh resigned due to not being paid by the FA,” said Chamangwana.
But Nyirenda said the association is still forced to fend for the coach in case government fails to meet some obligations.
He said FAM recently bought a car for the current coach Mtawali when government was supposed to do so according to the contract.
“Since the coach is under us, we would not want him to struggle in terms of transport when performing his duties,” said Nyirenda.