There was no Malawian umpire at the just ended Africa Netball Championship in yet another serious indication how netball officiation has taken a dip.
Though Malawi is regarded a netball giant in the world capable of stunning even world number two teams such as New Zealand, International Netball Federation (INF) opted for officials from countries such as Lesotho and Botswana.
The list of the umpires had Janet Edeling (South Africa), Chakasa Lephole (Lesotho), Susan Forssman (South Africa), Abednico Chetlelo (Botswana), Nadine Zammit (Gibratar), James Mathews (Australia), Leonard Masao (South Africa) and Boikhutso Tuelo (Botswana).
Heather Gleadall and Margaret Deighan from England were in the Ifna umpires appointment panel while Thulaganyo Retshabile from Botswana was the technical delegate.
Netball analyst Wesysylas Chirwa said the development speaks volumes on the slump in not just play, but officiation of the sport in the country.
“It must be noted that Malawi went to the 2018 African Netball Championship as number two team in Africa and number six in the world. But what’s so strange is that the number two country cannot produce an umpire good enough to officiate at the tournaments.
“Why is this happening this way? That just qualifies what other people are saying that the standards of play and officiation in netball have gone down,” he said.
Chirwa recalled in the 2014 African Netball Championship when Malawi contributed a number of umpires when it hosted the event.
“You will recall that some four years ago we hosted a similar tournament. There were umpires from other countries and locally, we had he likes of Titus Wankhamwa, Whyte Mlilima and others.
“But the preceding year we did not send an umpire when South Africa hosted the tournaments. We also did not send an umpire to last year tournaments in Uganda.
“Time has come to sit down and find common ground how we can address this problem. We can’t go on like this. We were once giants, but we have been reduced to punching bags.”
At the tournament, Malawi Queens lost two of their six matches to finish third from champions Uganda and runners-up Zimbabwe.
The Queens started the tournaments strongly defeating Zimbabwe but went down to eventual champions Uganda in the second game.
The Queens recovered in their next game against Botswana only to be embarrassed by hosts Zambia in the third match.
Though the Queens beat Namibia on Friday and Kenya yesterday, it was not good enough to take then to top position.
Another analyst George Chiusiwa said Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) has failed to put in place youth development programmes.
He said: “We have failed to nurture and develop the replacements for the giants we have had in the netball game. Regrettably, this has been due to over reliance on the team that gave us smiles for a while without considering of proper transition. Perhaps we seem to have similar problems in both netball and football. But it’s not too late for we can still salvage something in the netball game on the continent.” n