Sports associations have expressed high expectations from the newly appointed Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Francis Phiso, pressing him to lobby for increased annual grants, improve infrastructure and lure more companies to support their industry.
The Blantyre North legislator is in the 24-member new Cabinet President Peter Mutharika appointed on Wednesday.
He replaces Grace Chiumia, who headed the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development before the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Reacting to Phiso’s appointment, Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) president Khungekile Matiya urged Phiso to advance the netball agenda contained in a proposal the body submitted to the ministry.
In the proposal, she said, NAM asked for the construction of an indoor netball complex and regional courts to be used to nurture talent.
“We expect him to be doing things differently. We will appreciate if he pushes for netball infrastructure development which previous ministers failed to deliver,” she said.
The indoor netball court project has been in the previous national budgets, but funding was not provided for its construction.
Matiya also urged the minister to lobby the Ministry of Finance to increase the funding towards the sports sector.
Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) secretary general Frank Chitembeya said although Phiso is a new name in sports circles, he might be well aware of the challenges facing the industry.
“He has been here in Malawi and he has obviously read stories about the challenges facing the sector and we expect him to act on them,” he said.
Chitembeya said the challenge facing the athletics is lack of support from the corporate sector.
He, therefore, urged the minister to lobby for tax exemptions on companies that are interested in supporting the sports industry.
“We believe that this can persuade more companies to come into the sector through sponsorships of competitions and teams,” he said.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) could not be reached for their comment.
Phiso, in an interview, said he has taken note of the associations expectations and promised “not to disappoint”.
“I have just been appointed so I may not be able to respond to all the issues they have raised. However, I would like to assure them that I will do my best to improve the sports industry,” he said.
The minister, who has been a member of Parliament since 2009, described himself as being passionate about football.
“If you remember between 2009 and 2014, I used to be goalkeeper of the Parliament team when we had sports days. This tells you I am a keen sports follower,” he said.
In the new Cabinet, the President has reconstituted the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture delinking it from Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development.
Meanwhile, football analyst George Kaudza Masina has hailed the arrangement as beneficial to sports development.
“With Labour as the main portfolio, sports was being over-shadowed as much concentration was on labour issues. This is a plus to the sports fraternity as its focus will solely be on youth, sports and culture,” he said.