Malawi national netball team, the Queens, have for the first time been sidelined from the annual Diamonds Netball Challenge scheduled for the end of this month in South Africa.
Netball Association fo Malawi (NAM) president Rosy Chinunda says the development will affect the team’s preparations for the 2016 Fast5 World Netball Series in Australia from October 29.
She said the Queens have for the past three years been relying on the fully-funded invitational Diamonds Challenge to tune up for global events.
“We were surprised to note that we are not on the list of participants this year. However, it is a South African event and they can choose who to invite for participation,” said Chinunda.
“But, I must confess, this is a big blow to us because we expected to use the competition as our main preparations for the imminent Fast5 World Netball Series.”
South Africa have decided not to invite them for this year’s contest, opting for Jamaica and Africa’s lowly-ranked sides Uganda and Zambia.
The Queens took part in the 2015 Diamonds Challenge as they tuned-up for the 2015 Netball World Cup and they narrowly lost 35-40 in the finals to South Africa.
Though fifth on the world netball rankings with 141 rating points, South Africa Proteas are just four points ahead of sixth placed Queens, and sidelining them means the Proteas could widen the points gap after playing more international games as the Queens remain dormant due to inactivity.
Zambia and Uganda, who are 16th with 57 points and 11th with 90 points respectively, do not pose any threat to South Africa, but will help the Proteas earn some rating points.
According to netball analyst Wesley Namasala, the Proteas have chosen to invite Jamaica as a ploy to try and reduce the rating-points gap that exists between them.
Jamaicans are ranked fourth in the world with 149 rating points, eight points above South Africa.
“If South Africa manages to beat Jamaica in the Diamonds Challenge, they will gain more rating points and reduce the gap that exists between the two sides. South Africa now eye the fourth place on the rankings table and are not comfortable to invite the Queens because they know that it will only assist Malawi to gain more rating points,” Namasala said.
Last year, the Queens were above Proteas on the rankings, but after the tables turned in favour of the South African, Malawi Queens are no longer attractive.
Asked why the Queens, who are sponsored by Airtel Malawi cannot organise international friendly matches, Chinunda said NAM does not have funds compete against Proteas.
“It pains, but we can do nothing. We can just watch as our rivals progress because we do not have adequate funding to play more international friendly matches. At present, we only rely on funding from government while the Proteas have at least five big companies behind them,” she said.
Chinunda said the Queens will now rely on friendly matches against local clubs to prepare for Fast5 tourney.
NAM is also yet to appoint a Queens coach, who will call the squad for camp training on October 1.
Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) executive secretary George Jana had not yet responded to a questionnaire about the Queens’ situation as we went to press .
Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development spokesperson Christopher Mbukwa could not pick up a phone call.