In a vote of confidence in local referees, Fifa has retained nearly all Malawian referees to officiate international matches this year.
Apart from Jones Chimedza, who failed fitness test held in the capital, Lilongwe last year, Fifa has kept faith in the other 14 top referees who include five women.
Two centre women referees Grace Msiska and Linda Chikuni, who risked being struck off the Fifa list having failed the physical test held in Blantyre, have been retained. This follows their personal efforts to attend another physical test held in South Africa recently.
FAM referees development officer Maxwell Mtonga said it was encouraging that Malawi had retained its slots considering that in some countries such as Uganda, their slots had been reduced.
“It is particularly pleasing that we still have two centre women Fifa referees because had Grace [Msiska] and Linda [Chikuni] not travelled to South Africa for another test, then we could not have had a lady Fifa referee this year. So, it is a big relief.
“The other interesting aspect is that we have a new young assistant referee by the name Hendrix Maseko,” said Mtonga.
Msiska on Wednesday said she was relieved to have been retained.
“After failing the test in Blantyre it meant I stood no chance of being retained, but Chikuni and I took it upon ourselves to travel to South Africa, using personal resources, to try our luck and gave out our best, in the end we made it,” she said.
Asked what Fifa looks for in choosing referees for international games, Mtonga said it is the associations that recommend the referees based on performance and conduct.
“These referees are ranked from one to seven and towards the end of the year, we come up with a list which is recommended to them.
“For instance, this time we sent a list of about 20, but they still maintained our slot of 15,” said Mtonga.
National Football Referees Committee (NFRC) general secretary Chris Kalichelo said while they were happy that most of the referees had made the grade, they would want more women referees to join the field.
“Generally, we are satisfied, but we need to woo more ladies to join refereeing. Just imagine, here in the Central Region and the capital city in particular, we do not have a Fifa woman referee.
“Of course, since Ella Banda and Martha Nyekanyeka retired, we have not had a good number of top women referees apart from Grace and Linda. So, that is a cause for concern,” said Kalichelo.
Women assistant referees who have made the grade are Happiness Mbandambanda, Chikondi Mpindo and Bernadetter Kwimbira.
The male centre referees that have retained their badges are Dennis Ngulube, Duncan Lengani, Anthony Raphael and Andy Makuwira, assistant male referees are Clemence Kanduku, Kelvin Ngulanga, Feston Kusekuse, Innocent Kaundula, Victor Nkhata and the new kid on the block Maseko.