Youth football and beach soccer have cried foul after FAM sidelined them from phase one of the Covid-19 relief package aimed at cushioning affiliates, especially players and coaches, from the economic effects of the pandemic.
However, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) says phase one of the Covid-19 relief funds was based on beneficiaries’ dependency of football as a source of income and those left out, will be considered in the next phase.
One of the Blantyre-based Under-20 teams’ owners said FAM was playing double standards by helping some affiliates while leaving out others, especially youth teams.
“Most of the Super League teams have sponsors while we run our teams from our pockets. I know some will say we are not playing; hence we don’t need the support.
“But look, we support some youths who play in the team despite not paying them as it is against rules. We also have coaches who are supposed to be paid,” he said.
Another owner of an Under-20 side said some of the teams’ players are their dependants.
“Some of these players are school dropouts and were destitute before they started playing football. We keep these players, but in the wake of Covid-19 we will be forced to let them go back to their old lives where they risk getting involved in bad behaviours. For us to continue keeping these players, we need FAM’s support,” he said.
National Youth Football Association general secretary Thokozani Chimbali said they submitted a proposal of how to support youth football in the wake of Covid-19, but they were told to wait for phase two.
“They said they are doing it in phases and that we will be considered later,” he said.
Beach Soccer Malawi general secretary Davies Saddo said the sport needs to be rescued from effects of the pandemic.
“It would be prudent to relook at the whole arrangement. I think it’s not too late to embrace the sport [beach soccer] and see how best it can equally benefit,” he said.
Covid-19 taskforce desk coordinator Gomezgani Zakazaka, who is also FAM competitions and communication director, justified the decision to sideline beach soccer and youth football in the first phase, arguing that it targeted those hugely affected by the pandemic.
He said: “Realising that we have a lot of players that are engaged in organised football at all levels of the game, we decided to take a phased approach to rolling out the relief support to the various leagues. This phased approach has largely been guided by the following rationale or criteria: dependency of football as a source of income; state of players as breadwinner or dependent in the family; opportunity of economic supporter system from outside football; added responsibility of the players in their homes and families, nature of the league—professional, semi-professional or amateur and risk exposure to economic survival and livelihood.”
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said the association will launch phase two of the Covid-19 shortly to address the shortfalls.
“Phase two is imminent as we try to close the gaps and reach out to more members of the football family,” he said.
FAM established a K350 million Covid-19 Special Relief Fund in April following an outcry from the football fraternity on the economic effects of the pandemic.
The association has diverted the 2020 Fifa special projects’ $400 000 (around K292 million) for the purpose.
Under the initiative, TNM Super League players, regional league players (premier division), women’s football players, coaches and referees will benefit.
TNM Super League players, women’s football players, coaches and referees are getting not less than K40 000 per month.
FAM has also partnered with Rab Processors Limited to extend the association’s Covid-19 Relief Fund programme to regional leagues teams.
The teams’ registered players will receive packs of assorted food items worth K120 million for seven months with effect from June 1 2020.
The programme is targeting 62 teams with a maximum number of 25 players and five officials and each team will be getting 30 packs valued at K10 000 each.
In total, FAM will distribute 1 860 packs a month which translates to 13 020 packs for the duration of seven months.