Recent achievements of Lilongwe-based netball teams Blue Eagles Sisters and CivoNets in 2017 editions of Presidential Championship and Gotv Netball Champions League, respectively, have provided the Central Region (CR) with one of the fairytale success stories in history.
Eagles Sisters and CivoNets dethroned Diamonds to win the crowns with 47-45 and 26-16 beatings in the finals.
In the past decade, it was always predictable that the eventual national champions would be either Diamonds or Tigresses.
As a result of this, Southern Region (SR) players, especially those from the two Blantyre outfits, had the bragging rights of deserving the majority of places in the Malawi Queens squad and nobody could question their dominance in the national netball team.
But the latest success of Blue Eagles and CivoNets would probably sway all the privileges in favour of CR teams and players, whose deep scars and animosity generated by their poor performance in domestic competitions have, for once, been forgotten.
In spite of that, observers believe the rise of CR netball teams is as a result of sound sponsorship which they have acquired recently as compared to the continued decline of financial backing among SR outfits.
At present, almost all the CR teams have sponsorships and they participate in two prestigious regional competitions, The Gateway CR League and the Central Health Clinic event.
As for SR, only two teams, Diamonds and Prison Sisters, have meaningful financial backing and they only participate in the Rainbow Paints League.
Previously, only Malawi Police Service (MPS) side Eagles Sisters and Civil Service outfit CivoNets were sponsored in the Centre at the time at least five teams in the South enjoyed corporate support and a number of regional competitions.
“Good sponsorship of both regional competitions and individual clubs is a motivational tool for players to give their all in events. As a result, such teams are able to retain or attract quality players in their fold. This is why CR teams are on the rise,” said former Malawi Queens coach Edith Kaliati.
Eagles Sisters’ coach Samuel Kanyenda and his Diamonds counterpart Griffin Saenda agreed with Kaliati that good sponsorship spurs good performance on top of teams’ technical ability.
Kanyenda said they will not sit on their laurels to maintain the just-acquired dominance over SR clubs.
“For the past three seasons, our region has not been losing quality players to SR teams because our league is now competitive due to sound sponsorship,” he said.
On the other hand, Northern Region teams continue to struggle in domestic competitions as their league does not have sponsors.
Therefore, this shifting of netball powerbase from SR to CR is enough proof that if regional competitions are well-sponsored, netball will be very competitive and Malawi netball pride on the international scene will not be degraded.