Malawi, World Cup… How do you feel about that?”
That was the question American pop star Madonna posed to journalists when she was asked about her future plans in an interview on Monday after touring the Mercy James Centre for Paediatric Centre and Intensive Care at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre.
The pop diva said she would like to fulfil the dream of her Malawian adopted son David to set up a football academy that will help build a strong Malawi national team that can qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations and, subsequently, the World Cup.
She said: “…OK good! It is actually David’s idea that we build a soccer academy.”
Madonna then asked David to chip in and he said: “We want to start with the Africa Cup [of Nations] and then the World Cup. It starts slowly and then it gets bigger and bigger and then hopefully as big as possible.”
A member of Madonna’s team said the pop star is serious about the project and that the project is still in planning stage and “we will communicate once we make a headway”.
David, 12, recently showed his sublime football skills when he had trials with top Portuguese outfit Benfica’s youth side, according to international media.
Madonna temporarily relocated to Lisbon in the quest to help her son kick-start his footballing career
Meanwhile, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu and Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) board chairperson James Chuma have welcomed Madonna’s plans, saying they fit well with their respective development agendas.
Said Nyamilandu: “We hope she can fill in the gap of setting up a fully-fledged academy where the players will be residing on site and going to school while playing football.
“I would say to Madonna home is best. There are lots of David’s calibre that are undiscovered in Malawi. The football academies will help us unearth abundant talent that is lying out there.”
He said football academies have proved worldwide to be the solution to producing high performing players.
“It is our ambition to set up academies and we will be rolling out this year. Our project proposal to set up the academies has just been approved for funding by Fifa. Our model is non-residential and we intend to scale up further funds permitting.”
On his part, Chuma said: “Madonna’s gesture is a positive development because it is in line with what we have been preaching all along to invest in the youth by setting up proper structures.
“We will not hesitate to jump at such an opportunity and we support the initiative 100 percent.”
The country has only had one fully-fledged academy Surestream which produced a number of gifted players such as Brightone Munthali, Mike Nkwate, Patrick Phiri, Dennis Chembezi, Rafiq Nmwera and Levison Maganizo who all play for the national teams.
Other notable academies include Play Soccer and Lawrence Waya.