First Lady Monica Chakwera yesterday accepted a request to become the Malawi Queens’ patron.
Minister of Youth and Sports Richard Chimwendo Banda and Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) president Abigail Shariff took turns in calling on the First Lady to take up the role when she hosted the Queens to a breakfast at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe to congratulate them for winning the Cosana Tri-Nations Tournament.
Said Chimwendo Banda: “The Queens would like you to be their patron and this is all for one reason. They know that once you are their patron, half their problems will be solved.”
In response, the First Lady said she needed to consult, but later announced that she would take up the role.
In her remarks, Chakwera congratulated the Queens for winning the tournament, saying their success spoke volumes of their unconquerable courage.
She said: “You have proved to be one of Africa’s biggest stars and you continue to shine. I can speak this morning without fear or favour that you are a team full of role models that range from players, coaches and all officials.
“Be assured that your achievement in the Tri Nations Tournament has inspired others out there to dream big and aspire to become part of this winning team.”
Following her acceptance, the minister said he was excited and he highlighted the need to support the Queens.
He also called on the corporate world to join FDH Bank plc in supporting the Queens.
“We cannot have government alone developing sports in the country, we need the private sector to do the same,” he said.
Taking her turn, Shariff agreed that despite all the Queens’ successes, underfunding is one of their biggest challenges.
She said: “Out of a budget of K1 billion this year, the Queens were allocated only about K150 million.
“NAM gets funding for the Queens foreign engagements, but it is a challenge to implement development programmes due to financial constraints.
“As we speak, Malawi does not have a national league. We are ranked seventh in the world, but without a league to help in identifying new talent. We beg you Madam First Lady to help us have a national league in your name.”
She also bemoaned the association’s inability to construct netball courts at district level, as well as the lack of transport as they do not have their own buses.
Shariff, therefore, called on the first lady to look into the issues.
Commenting on some of the challenges the Queens are facing, Chimwendo Banda said government is doing everything possible to address them.
He said: “A few days ago, I gave a directive to the Malawi Council for Sports to discuss these things. They formed a team which is looking into issues affecting the Queens and these issues will be sorted out within a few days.
“About a week ago we were told that the Queens get K5 000 as training allowance and K50 000 game allowance. Compared to football and other sports disciplines, the Queens are very much on the lower side. We made it clear that this should be urgently looked into.”
The minister also assured the Queens that they will be supported in all the tournaments this year.
The Queens will use the matches in South Africa to prepare for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.