Lack of sound sponsorship and competitive leagues at local level have negatively affected the national netball team’s efforts to get quality players.
With the Central and Northern regions having no league competitions, Queens coach Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa said the South which has the only up-and-running league, leaves them with a small catchment of players for the national team.
Within the past decade, the Queens have fallen from being the number one team in Africa to number two. At present, they are also likely to be displaced by high flying Uganda’s She Cranes in the next world netball rankings update in January.
Said Chawinga-Kaluwa: “It is difficult to come up with a good number of high quality players that can fight for selection in the senior national team when you do not have competitive leagues across the country.”
The absence of a national netball league and youth development structures is also said to be a thorn in the Queens’ flesh.
The development comes at a time most Queens players are getting older with no proper transition plan in sight.
The forthcoming inaugural FDH Bank Netball Cup will be the only tournament at national level in recent months. The South relies on the Rainbow Paints Blantyre and Districts Netball League while the Centre had the Gateway Mall League this season.
On the other hand, the Northern Region was dormant until GN Engineering came to the rescue this season.
Moreover, only 14 out of 50 top-flight netball league teams in the country have sponsorship; hence, most netballers go to matches and training sessions on foot due to lack of transport.
But why is the corporate world shunning the sport which for years has been regarded as the pride of the nation?
MultiChoice Malawi managing director Gus Banda, whose company stopped sponsoring the GOtv National Netball Champions League in 2017, yesterday said the corporate world can only come in after Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) and other stakeholders make public their short and long-term plans.
On his part, he said Multi-Choice stopped bankrolling the GOtv tournament after the company decided to shift focus to the health sector.
He said: “The corporate world would first want to see a great strategic plan that clearly explain what and how you achieve success within a given period. As business entities, they like to be associated with something that shows great potential of short and long-term definitive results.”
Banda added that the netball fraternity needs to work hard on bridging the player transition gap that was created a few years ago due to poor youth development structures.
He said: “We can borrow a leaf from teams such as South Africa, which has worked hard to build a team with a good balance between senior and junior players. For the past few years, they have been slowly retiring the old guards by frequently rotating the starting line-up at major events.”
Ministry of Youth and Sports director of netball Mary Waya, who is also the country’s netball legend, said the Queens’ transition is already in the pipe-line.
She said: “The process is two-fold. Firstly, we are working with the Ministry of Education to re-introduce serious netball training and competitions in primary and secondary schools so as to nurture talent from the grassroots.
“We are also coming up with training camps that can help up-and-coming players improve their skills. We know it will take some time but it is worth it.”
Waya admitted that it was such a process that helped current top players such as Mwawi Kumwenda, Sindie Simtowe-Msowoya, Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda, Carol Mtukule-Ngwira and Grace Mwafulirwa-Mhango to replace Linda Magombo, Chawinga-Kaluwa, Judith Chalusa and Sylvia Mtetemela.
The Junior Queens were also participating in international competitions such as the 2009 Under-21 Netball World Cup in Cook Island, where Kumwenda was spotted by Australian outfit Pensular Waves at a tender age in 2009 following her impressive performance.
NAM general secretary (GS) Isaac Chimwala yesterday