Funding hitches and alleged indifference threaten the ambitious sports high performance centre (HPC) project at College of Medicine’s Sports Complex in Blantyre. Government claims it fully supports the initiative.
An HPC runs long-term athletes’ development programmes, producing world-class athletes through top training facilities, medical services, accommodation, nutritional food, scientific expertise, research and hospitality.
Countries that produce top athletes such as Kenya, South Africa and the United States have HPCs. Malawi sends athletes to Kenya and South Africa’s HPCs.
The complex manager Gus Banda bemoaned that their application for registration with world HPC regulator and engagement of the University of Pretoria (UP) expertise has not translated to domestic support. The UP contributed five of six South African medal winners at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
“We do not have support except from the UP. We have been in discussion with the Sports Council informally, but there are constraints. For the HPC to function, government, the private sector and the sports bodies need to work together. But even if we hold seminars, key people are never there,” Banda claimed in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
The UP has promised to help in the development of coaches/athletes and competitions through clinics. But local stakeholders are reluctant to invest in the project, Banda claimed.
“We have one or two people who understand, but we need a bigger voice. We are 15 or 18 years behind in sports. Not enough people want change. We are not looking at benefiting except being drivers of the project and hand it over to the sports authorities,” he explained.
Sports Council executive secretary George Jana said they supported the HPC project through consultative meetings and paying travel expenses of visiting UP tutors who started the programme last year.
He said at this stage, there is need to ensure that the project feeds into the general strategy for Malawi sports development “so that in future, finances permitting, it becomes easier for the Council to work with and contribute to the HPC.
“At this stage, having looked at and worked out a potential budget for the HPC project, it was apparent that Sports Council would not be in a position to in any way other than morally, support the HPC project,” said Jana.
“It must be appreciated that the council operates under a strict budget which mainly is for direct support to standing sports associations and this budget is already as you know, thin to the bone. Identifying other resources to fit the size of the HPC project thus is a next to impossible activity.
Director of sports Jameson Ndalama said they gave a nod to the project after meeting Banda, but they are awaiting feedback.