Malawi national netball team, the Queens, have lost automatic qualification for major tournaments after plunging to ninth position on the latest International Netball Federation (INF) world rankings.
The forthcoming 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England is the last for Malawi Queens to have automatic qualification.
The Queens have also kissed goodbye the Fast5 World Netball Series, which they have been participating in since its inception in 2009. The annual competition is contested for by top-six national teams on INF world rankings.
Even their participation in the Commonwealth Games, which sees 11 highest ranked teams plus the hosts competing, is at stake as other teams below them are fast-improving and may overtake the Queens.
In the latest rankings released on Monday and is inclusive of matches up to June 30 2019, the Queens have surrendered both the sixth ranking in the world and the second place in Africa to high-flying Uganda’s She-Cranes.
They have also been overtaken by Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have moved up a place each to seventh and eighth in the world, respectively.
Sports analysts have since described the Queens’ fall from grace not a surprise, following Netball Association of Malawi (NAM), government and corporate world’s failure to support the team.
The latest rankings include matches played since July 1 2018 after Malawi failed to wrest the continental crown from the She-Cranes at the Africa Netball Championship.
While the other teams were engaged in test series matches and a number of competitions to enhance their rankings, the Queens hardly took part in games.
“The Queens will go further down on the rankings and it will take time to regain good rankings unless they play and win a lot of test [friendly] matches,” said netball analyst Wesley Namasala
A blame game has since ensued on who is to blame for Queens misery.
Former Queens coach Edith Kaliati blamed the Queens situation on poor succession plan.
“Because after the current crop of national team players retires, they [NAM] should not struggle with a succession plan,” she said.
Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) acting executive secretary Henry Mereka accused NAM of failing to commercialise the sport.
“Government’s financial support is only complementary. As netball authorities, NAM needed to stop heavy reliance on government,” he said.
Marketer Chimwemwe Nyirenda agreed with Mereka, saying NAM has failed to sale Queens brand to generate revenue despite its popularity. NAM president Khungekile Matiya and general secretary Carol Bapu could not be reached for comments as they are with the team at World Netball Cup in Liverpool, UK.