Relief and joy have gripped the football fraternity after Airtel Malawi Limited declared it would continue sponsoring the K66 million Top 8 Cup despite the violence that marred the final match between Nyasa Big Bullets and Blue Eagles.
At the end of the match, suspected Bullets supporters protesting a last minute penalty awarded to their opponents were involved in running battles with the police at Bingu National Stadium.
Speaking in Lilongwe on Thursday night during an awards gala to wrap up this year’s tournament, Airtel managing director Charles Kamoto confirmed they will continue with the sponsorship.
He warned, nonetheless, against violence saying if acts of hooliganism return in future, they will be forced to shelve the sponsorship.
“We will have the third season of the competition next year. But let me stress here that we must stop violence if this competition is to continue,” Kamoto said.
He said, apart from the violence at the finals, the company was impressed with how the competition was organised.
“Competition was stiff and the patronage was great. We just hope that in the next edition there will be more goals. The golden boot winner should at least have eight goals,” said Kamoto jokingly expressing his displeasure at the lack of goals which saw Joseph Kamwendo being crowned the top goal scorer after netting two goals.
Labour commissioner Hlalerwayo Nyangulu, who represented the Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kasaila, condemned perpetrators of violence in football.
“Airtel Top 8 is one of the competitions that help FAM to identify players for the national team. It is, therefore, sad to note that there are a few people who do not understand the spirit of losing and winning and tend to resort to violence,” he said.
Nyangulu hailed Airtel for showing “great sportsmanship by opting to continue sponsoring the competition”.
Reacting to the assurances of the continued sponsorship, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu described Airtel as a true partner of football.
“We have seen companies leave us because of violence but it is pleasing to see Airtel remaining with us despite what happened. You have acted like a father and you are the real winner today,” he said.
Nyamilandu assured Airtel that FAM will do its best to ensure that hooliganism does not creep into football again.
During the awards gala, Joseph Kamwendo was, in absentia, confirmed as the Golden Boot Award winner while Blue Eagles’ John Soko was named Player of the Tournament after going through the whole tournament without conceding. They both pocketed K500 000 each.
In media category, Nation Publications Limited’s Clement Chinoko was named best print reporter, Rainbow Television’s Lucy Kadzongwe was crowned best television reporter and Times Media Group’s Mabvuto Kambuwe and Emmanuel Simpokolwe were named best online reporter and best photojournalist respectively. Each pocketed K200 000.
Mzuzu-based Kelvin Mtonga won the top fan award for his participation in the Airtel Top Eight Predict and Win promotion. He had a total of 603 entries.
Blue Eagles, in the presence of Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose, pocketed K15 million as champions while runners-up Bullets received K5 million.