Minister of Youth and Sports Ulemu Msungama says he will push for the speedy establishment of the welfare fund for sports persons to cushion the challenges they face after retiring.
He said this when he paid tribute to fallen former Flames, Silver Strikers and Be Forward Wanderers goalkeeper Donnex Gondwe at his graveyard in Kaporo, Karonga.
Said the minister: “Most of our athletes struggle when they retire. Some of them live miserable lives. That is why I am pushing officials in my ministry, Malawi National Council of Sports and even associations to do something about it.
“We needed this fund yesterday and I will do everything I can to ensure that it is established,” he said.
Msungama said he has discussed the issue with Sports Council acting executive secretary Henry Mereka and Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu, among others.
The minister said he felt obliged to visit Gondwe’s resting place “because he was one of the best goalkeepers that this country produced. We should not forget our heroes”.
He said: “It was sad to hear how another former national team goalkeeper Trust Lunda struggled before he died of cancer last month. I hear another celebrated goalkeeper Clement Mkwalula is also unwell and this fund can play a crucial part in such situations.”
Mereka said they have made steady progress on the issue.
“The policy is there and we are finalising a few things, including implementation,” he said.
Mereka said the fund will cover both players and officials and will be contributory.
On his part, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said: “Indeed we discussed the issue of the players’ welfare and the need to revive the Football Players Association [PFA], which was specifically set up for this purpose.
“It is unfortunate that the PFA has not taken off smoothly largely due to a cold reception from [TNM] Super League clubs.”
FAM wanted a percentage from gate takings to be channelled towards the cause.
“The association was set up for the benefit of the clubs who are employers of the players, yet we faced strong resistance from the clubs who were reluctant to contribute towards the fund,” said Nyamilandu.
Two weeks ago, the Department of Public Sector Reforms also said the draft on development of incentive and welfare programme for sports persons is now ready.
The initiative is among the reforms being championed by the Office of the Vice-President.
Department of Public Sector Reforms spokesperson McCarthy Mwalwimba said from the meetings they have had with officials from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, there is progress on the ground.
He said the background to this reform area is that the country has no comprehensive national incentive and welfare programme for sports persons.
“This has resulted in lack of motivation on the part of sports persons, increased suffering of sports persons after their careers and increased expectation on government support; hence, the introduction of this programme to make sports more attractive to all and improve the lifestyle of sports persons.
“We have been told that what remains are consultational meetings with service providers and also validation meetings with relevant stakeholders before the fund is established,” he said.