Malawi Queens are confident of ending their nine-year Africa Netball Championship title drought as they begin their campaign against neighbours Zambia today in Windhoek, Namibia.
The national netball team last won the championship in 2012 before surrendering it a year later on home soil to the current defending champions South Africa’s Proteas, who have risen to become the top-ranked team in Africa and fifth in the world.
Before losing the championship to South Africa, the Queens were the number one team in Africa.
Queens coach Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa yesterday stressed that it is time to fight for the ultimate glory as they have been in the wilderness for too long.
“It is our desire to win the championship and a good start is key,” she said.
However, Chawinga-Kaluwa admitted that they need to engage an extra to have a realistic chance as most of the teams have upped their game.
She said: “Going by the performance of most teams during the just-ended Pent Series Tournament in Namibia, we expect tough games in the Africa Championship. Teams have improved a lot in terms of fitness levels and playing standards
“This is the reason we have been engaging in intensive tune-ups in the past four days to get to the required competitive level ahead of the continental championships.”
The world’s sixth-ranked Queens beat 15th ranked Zambia 76-44 during the Pent Series Championship last week, but Chawinga-Kaluwa is aware that the result hardly guarantees them an easy ride over their lower-ranked opponents.
Queens captain Carol Mtukule-Ngwira agreed with Chawinga-Kaluwa that while their aim is to dethrone South Africa, Uganda’s She-Cranes have hideous intentions of displacing them from the sixth position.
The She-Cranes, who are ranked seventh, made their intentions clear when they beat the Queens 59-43 in the Pent Series last week, a fifth win over Malawi in seven meetings.
“South Africa and Uganda are our biggest threats on our title campaign. This is why our training focused much on them. However, that does not mean we underrate the other teams, who have improved a lot over the years,” she said.
After their opening match today, the Queens are expected to face Botswana tomorrow and Zimbabwe on Thursday. They will be up against South Africa on Friday, Kenya on Saturday and Namibia on Sunday. They will play Tanzania next Monday before entertaining Uganda in the last fixture on Tuesday.
“They want me to use my knowledge and experience to advise coaches instructors whenever they have courses. I will also be conducting courses if there is that need,” he said.
Kaputa said his first assignment was in Gambia, where he went for a week-long course last week where he said he left a mark.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said Kaputa’s appointment would inspire local coaches to dream big.
He said: “We are delighted that Fifa has appointed former technical director John Kaputa as one of the mentors of coaches educators in Africa. We are happy that the work he was doing at FAM has been recognised by Fifa.
“This is an admirable achievement that will inspire other local coaches and it augurs well for the nation as it puts Malawi on the map.”
In his reaction, sports marketing analyst Kevin Moyo said: “To him it is a great personal achievement in as far as his career is concerned and for the country.”
Football analyst and former FAM acting general secretary George Kaudza-Masina commended Kaputa, saying he deserved it.
He said: “The fact that Fifa has recognised Kaputa is not surprising. This will help motivate our local coaches to emulate Kaputa’s feat.”