So Carlsberg Malawi lacked the steel to pick one side to sponsor between Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers? What an anti-climax! After all the suspense for almost a whole year this is what I hear? For me, this is nothing but a raw deal and football has every reason to feel cheated, if not taken for a ride, and in this discussion I will try to advance the case for my position.
Unless I heard it wrongly, Carlsberg decided to give a token K15 million (about $38 000) sponsorship to both Bullets and Wanderers with a view to picking one that did better than the other on given criteria both on and off the pitch. The message we have at the end of it all is that neither team met the criteria because they were involved in some cases of violence. Who are we trying to fool here?
As far as I am concerned, even where no competitor meets a certain benchmark, one of them is likely going to do better than the other, which was basically what we were told would determine the decision. From what I know, I am not sure if any clear benchmarks were set from the word go for anyone to say no team made the mark. It is all difficult to understand.
One could say the mere incidence of violence meant the two clubs had missed out but the counter-argument is that with no means of identifying fans in the country there is no telling who was actually involved. It could have been fans of another team seeking to throw spanners in the works of the concerned team in the fight for what was expected to be lucrative sponsorship.
In any case, if both teams had not made the grade, what is the announced sponsorship signifying? Is it a reward for failing to live up to expectations or the company is trying to show some lenience by giving the two teams another chance? Given that the current deal is for one year, are the two teams going to compete again in the coming season to see which team eventually makes the grade?
Beggars are not choosers, or so we are told, and with the corporate world shunning the game we are advised to be grateful for whatever we get from those that show a semblance of goodwill, but one cannot help to question the figures in question. K15 million is what former president Bakili Muluzi gave Bullets 10 years ago and the media was awash with news that it was blown up in no time.
The point is that what should have been a commendable gesture has gone sour because of the background. While I do not condone the acidic attacks on Carlsberg and, incredibly, Football Association of Malawi president Walter Nyamilandu (whose crime I am yet to find out), I can fully understand why some people, especially Bullets fans who believe their team deserved the full sponsorship, are angry.
My own theory is that the company realised that this was a bad idea after all and that whichever way the decision went, there was a potential for a negative effect on business. As has been seen from the reaction to the announcement, football fans can be irrational at times, just like their political party counterparts. The whole thing could also be a mere tactical exit strategy.
But if one can be angry with Carlsberg, I do not know what they have to say about MTL. The company’s insensitivity and contempt for football and sports in general as has been shown this week beggars belief. I mean it is their money and they could have simply pulled out their sponsorship from Wanderers without complicating matters by playing with people’s feelings.
The fact that the announcement regarding the company’s involvement in the game had to be prompted by a media query actually showed the company did not appreciate or, in fact, care about people’s feelings.