FAM has postponed Junior Flames camping to find ways of keeping players abreast with their academic studies while preparing for Cosafa Under-17 Championship scheduled between October 11 and 20 in Blantyre.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) technical director John Kaputa said they want to first create an environment whereby special teachers would be deployed to make sure the players learn important subjects in accordance with their respective classes to be in line with the new school calendar that begins this week.
The team was expected to start camp training yesterday, but it has been shifted to next Monday.
“First, we have instructed all the players to register with their respective schools for the new school calendar this week before we ask their head teachers to furnish us with details about their classes and actual age,” he said.
“After that, we will arrange the players in accordance with their classes so that after training or during weekends, they should be studying important subjects while continuing with football training.”
The development also comes after education rights activists Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) warned against the idea of sports codes not prioritising education among junior athletes whenever the period of the camping or competitions clash with the country’s school calendar.
Csec executive director Benedicto Kondowe yesterday said they have welcomed FAM’s decision because education has proved to be a better investment than football among players in the country.
“In fact, there are many individuals that have played football for over a decade but ended up being destitute due to lack of education. Therefore, education should be prioritised among up-and-coming football players,” he said.
Under-17 national team coach DeKlerk Msakakuona yesterday said the arrangement will somehow affect the team’s preparations, but it is also imperative that the young players are encouraged to be serious with their academic studies.
“I would have loved to have ample time for camping because we are yet to assess most of our players ahead of the international event. However, I cannot ignore the fact that these youngsters need to gain academic success to have a brighter future,” he said.
Malawi last won the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Under-17 title in 2001 when they also hosted the event and Msakaukona hopes to relive the feat. Then, they beat South Africa 3-0 in the final.
According to Cosafa website, Malawi have, so far, appeared in all but one of the seven previous Cosafa Under-17 Championships.
They skipped the 2002 tournament and reached the semi-finals in 2007. Apart from winning the 2001 event, they also finished third in 2016.