With just a year to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan, there is no hope that Malawi is prepared for the world’s greatest sports festival.
Malawi, has over the years, failed to produce a qualified athlete and participated on solidarity.
The Women’s football team, which has been paired against Mozambique in the Olympic qualifiers, starts the campaign between 1 and 9 April.
But the blame game between stakeholders sports associations, Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) and Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) has exposed lack of unity of purpose and synergy to solve a common problem.
It has also started a war of words and finger pointing between sports associations and their governing bodies MNCS and MOC over who is responsible for athletes’ preparations.
MOC spokesperson Kythryna Phiri said they have earmarked athletics, archery, judo, table tennis, swimming and women football team for the Games.
National Women’s Football League chairperson Siveria Chalira said they are set to start preparations for the Games.
“The names of coaching panel have been proposed. We are just waiting for Football Association of Malawi (FAM) executive committee’s approval.
“We are presenting our budget to Malawi Olympic Committee in phases after our application for team sport grant was successful,” she said.
Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) president Godfrey Phiri admitted that they are yet to come up with athletes for the Olympic Games because of financial problems.
He said they expect MNCS and MOC to support athletics, regarded as the epitome of the Olympic Games.
“We haven’t got any communication from Sports Council or MOC, but we are having a meeting with MOC maybe it’s where they are going to tell us more about preparations,” Phiri said.
AAM also does not have a budget for the Games.
“We will give our camping budget next week.
“They [Sports Council] are supposed to fund camp and trips to international events and that is what most countries do. That’s why they have good results. We are there to identify talents. Once we select a national team that becomes a government’s responsibility through Sports Council,” he said.
MNCS executive secretary George Jana said they are not responsible for associations’ funding for such games.
“The responsibility lies with the associations. Let them give you the actual activities they are doing to prepare the athletes. If they cannot prepare athletes for such competitions so why do they exist?
“Surely, they cannot exist just waiting for government to finance their activities,” he said.
But Phiri insisted that government through MNCS has the responsibility to fund athletes, citing the Africa Sports Council Union (ASCU) Region V Games held in Botswana in October, which, the government shouldered expenses.
“We are there to identify talents. Once we select a national team that becomes a government team through Sports Council.
“It is the responsibility of Sports Council to take over any national team and transporting them to international events. Take the Region V Games, we identified athletes Sports Council took over and offered funding for preparation and transport to the events.
While pushing the responsibility to associations, MOC president Oscar Kanjala said apart from financial requirements, Malawi has no elite athletes to compete at high level.
“It’s a mistake to say that we are responsible for athletes’ preparations because we concentrate on high level performance.
“What we are doing is firefighting. We identified athletes through the mini-Olympic Games we organised last year to help associations spot talent,” he said.
The MOC president also appealed to stakeholders, including athletes to change their mindset.
“Honestly, we don’t have professional athletes in the country except a few in football, boxing and netball who are based abroad. They are professional because of what they doing
Kanjala also said MOC’s mandate is not to finance associations.
“We are not a financing institution. MOC should be excused of this,” he said.
He also said financial problems should not be an excuse.
“Money is just one of the factors, Even if the sports world receive K20 billion, I don’t think it’s enough to produce good athletes.”
One of the athletes, Golden Gunde, said the situation can affect athletes psychologically.
“Our friends start preparations four years before the Games. It’s not realistic to think of winning because we also need special diet,” he said.
British double Olympic Games medallist Kelly Holmes, who visited Malawi in October last year also told athletes that a good diet is crucial for them to do well.