For the umpteenth time, Malawian teams have missed out on the continental CAF tournaments.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) chief executive officer Suzgo Nyirenda said they sent invitations to local teams through the Super League of Malawi (Sulom), but by Friday, which was the cut-off point, no team had confirmed participation.
Nyirenda said the invitations were sent to Silver Strikers, Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers, who were eligible to participate in the CAF Champions League and the Confederations Cup.
â€œDue to crippling budgetary constraints, none of our clubs has shown willingness to take part, understandably so, because each team requires huge millions to take part in the continental events.
â€œIf teams struggle to raise local budgets, it is an uphill task to expect them to commit themselves to taking part in the continental competitions,â€ said Nyirenda.
He, however, said it is a cause of concern because Malawi is one of few countries that are not taking part in the CAF tournaments.
â€œWe need to find a way out; otherwise, we are losing out big time in terms of playersâ€™ exposure,â€ he said.
Nyirenda also said alternatively, FAM has asked Cecafa to consider allowing Malawi teams to participate in Cecafa Club Championship as guests.
â€œWe have written Cecafa and we are just waiting for their response. We feel it would be a better option as our teams cannot afford to take part in continental club tournaments,â€ he said.
Silver Strikers chairperson Dr McDonald Mafuta-Mwale confirmed receiving communication from CAF through FAM, inviting them to take part in the Champions League.
â€œBut we could not commit ourselves due to lack of resources. We need over K100 million to take part in the preliminary stages of the tournament alone and that is quite a lot,â€ said Mafuta-Mwale.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu and his Sulom counterpart Innocent Bottomani said they want to learn from neighbouring countries on how they manage to take part in the continental events.
Said Nyamilandu: â€œOur continued failure to take part in the tournaments speaks of volumes of the state of football sponsorship in the country.
â€œWe need to sit down with Sulom and see if we can learn from our counterparts in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Tanzania because their economies are not different from ours.â€
Bottomani said with the help of FAM and government, Sulom wants to explore avenues of sponsorship for national league champions as well as major cup winners to take part in the CAF tournaments.
â€œWe understand, in countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, government and the corporate world contribute towards their participation. We want to see if we can come up with a comprehensive proposal to attract the corporate world to that effect.
â€œI discussed the issue briefly with the FAM president [Nyamilandu] and it is just a matter of pursuing it,â€ said Bottomani.
Renowned football marketing consultant Felix Ngamanya Sapao said it is time clubs took a professional approach in the way they administer football if they are to participate in continental tournaments.
â€œThe problem with our clubs is that they do not want to adopt the modern way of running football. In other countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, teams are run as commercial entities while football in Malawi is still run as it was run in the 1970s and 80s. Some clubs do not even have offices and they are run by part-timers.
â€œSo, how can the corporate world come in if the teams are not properly organised? That should be food for thought for the clubs, Sulom as well as FAM,â€ said Sapao.
The last time a local team took part in the CAF Champions League was in 2004 when Big Bullets [then Bakili Bullets] reached the group phase of the Champions League. They were then sponsored by former president Bakili Muluzi.