Malawi Queens have no proper netball facilities and run on a shoestring budget, yet they always make the country proud. Just last week they won bronze at the Fast5 World Netball Series in Melbourne, Australia.
The players get paltry allowances due to, among other things, inadequate support from the corporate world and government, yet they always prove that poverty is not a stumbling block to success but lack of self-esteem and determination.
“Players that we competed against are all well looked after as compared to us. This does not make us underrate ourselves, it motivates us. We had a conducive environment in camp during our training and we agreed to give our all regardless of the challenges we face,” said Queens’ captain Grace Mwafulirwa-Mhango.
At the Fast5 event, the Queens were considered the underdogs as they were the only team at the competition that had no international friendly matches, having had some tune-up matches with a local men’s netball team Akabawi on the sun-baked and rugged Blantyre Youth Centre (BYC) Court.
On the other hand, teams such as South Africa, had the luxury of a series of international games ahead of the unique and intricate Fast5 contest.
Moreover, reinstated Queens’ coach Griffin Saenda and his assistant Sam Kanyenda had a makeshift squad that did not have two key players—defender Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira and attacker Sindi Simtowe-Msowoya—who could not make it due to maternity leave and injury, respectively.
However, the Queens, who had a poor start with 23-24 and 22-43 losses to Australia and England in the preliminary stage respectively, managed to thrash top-ranked sides Jamaica 46-12 and South Africa 36-21and the jewel in the crown was beating England 35-32 in the third-place play-offs. As for South Africa, they finished last without a win in six games. A 29-29 draw with England was their only solace.
On top of breaking into the top-four and, most importantly, earning a bronze at the global showpiece, the country’s sole professional netballer Mwawi Kumwenda emerged as top scorer with 151 baskets.
According to Kanyenda, they agreed with the players to disregard their financial challenges and haphazard preparations to make the country proud.
“The calibre of our elite netball players is excellent. We agreed that if we keep complaining about our shortcomings, life would not pause and wait for us,” he said.
Therefore, he said they had to focus on the positives as they had to produce results out of whatever meagre resources they were provided with.
“Fortunately, the players agreed with us [the coaches] and we spoke the same language. As a people, we know we will have challenges until our death and we will only hurt ourselves if we wait for riches to come to produce good results.
“Sport has the capacity to make people all over the country happy and it felt great to note that we made a lot of Malawians happy,” Kanyenda said.
On his part, Saenda pleaded with the corporate world and government to seriously consider investing in the Queens, saying: “If we were able to break into the top-three with shoddy preparations, what could happen if we had all the support we needed?”
Airtel Malawi managing director Charles Kamoto, whose company has been official netball sponsors for the past three years, said it feels great to be associated with the sport.
However, he could not commit on whether Airtel will continue with the financial assistance at the expiry of the K360 million three-year sponsorship.
NAM president Rosy Chinunda wondered why so many companies shun netball sponsorship when the sport is the reliable source of good results on the international stage.