Not a time long ago, the country was awash with football academies which, we were told, were the future of Malawi football—not any more.
The several academies that sprouted in almost every township, are gone just as abruptly as they appeared.
Before the opening of Surestream Academy in 2012, the idea of schools of excellence was foreign.
The opening of the academy ushered a new era in Malawi football.
Most of the current players in Super League went through the academy and even before it closed shop in 2015, copycats were all over the country.
Some had vision while others were simply going with the wind and died natural deaths.
Patrick Kulemeka, a pioneer in youth development who was also part of the Surestream Academy setup, noted that lack of a blueprint to govern the academy was the main reason behind the death of the academies.
“I think the first question we need to ask ourselves is where we are coming from and where we are going? Surestream Academy was the best thing that ever happened to Malawi football youth development. But they had to go because of circumstances beyond their control.
“Others opened their academies and indeed they have not survived. Has the football authorities in the country found out why this has happened? What have they done about it? Because at the end of the day, it is them who are responsible for the development of football. Right now there is a big gap because of the absence of vibrant academies.
“Yes, football academies are a private business, just like clubs, but when you are pumping in millions into the development of the game but those responsible of doing this are not doing their best to make the environment conducive, why should you stick around? In summary, there is need for Football Association of Malawi [FAM] to take a leading role in ensuring that we have vibrant academies by offering support to the owners.”
Kulemeka’s sentiments were echoed by Flames legend Lawrence Waya, who owns one of the surviving few schools of excellence in Mzuzu.
Waya, in an earlier interview, pointed out how it is tough to run an academy without the help FAM.
He said: “I have a problem securing funds for equipment. I can’t say it’s running smoothly now, but I am still in the process talking to people who have shown interest to see the academy achieve its objective.
“But for now, it’s a far-fetched dream which I will strive to achieve. That’s why I came back to South Africa to try and raise funds on my own of which it’s taking forever.”
At some point, primary schools, secondary schools and collegiate system was responsible for youth sports development in the country, but that is in the past.
The modern football system advocate for academies to attach to clubs.
But in Malawi even the clubs are suffocating due to financial problems and struggle even to have reserve sides despite the Club Licensing System demanding them to do so.