The future for the country’s netball sport is under threat as most girls in secondary and primary schools are patronising football activities rather than netball, Nation on Sunday has established.
This is despite the national netball team making a development splash on the global stage in terms of netball exploits and the country producing the most valuable player at the just ended Netball World Cup in Mwawi Kumwenda who plies her trade in Europe.
Malawi Schools Sports Association (Massa) confirmed as true and have since expressed alarm at the swicth among girls in school.
“Much as we would love to have women football grow but the way girls are abandoning netball for soccer is worrisome and alarming. In all the educational division the situation is the same. There is a big shift to football and this spells doom for the future of Our national teams unless intervention is put in place,” said Massa general secretary Blackson Malamula.
The main reason for the shift, according to Malamula, is that there are few sponsored netball tournaments in primary and secondary schools since the pulling out of Coca Cola in 2012.
“After the pulling out of the netball sponsorship, Airtel Malawi came in with sponsorship for girls’ football through the Rising Stars tournament. It is only natural that girls will be attracted to football. Through the Rising Stars girls have been able to travel and play outside the country,” said Malamula.
Central East Education Division (Ceed) general secretary Obert Mkandawire confirmed that girls are into football than netball.
“Most female teachers are training to become football coaches. This is all because netball has been neglected because of lack of financing. It’s bad for the future,” said Mkandawire in a telephone interview from Kasungu.
To arrest netball from further plunge, Massa said they have secured sponsorship in the region of K10 million for netball in schools.
“There will be an unveiling ceremony where the sponsors will be announced. We hope to revive the sport again,” said Malamula.
National Women Football Committee (NWFC) chairperson Siveria Chalira concurred with Massa that football is popular than netball in schools.
She also attributed this to Airtel Rising Stars and Copa Coca Cola tournament.
“We have observed the same that girls prefer football to soccer in almost every district. I think the reason is that there seems to be more opportunities in football than netball,” she said.
Massa has also laid the blame on the Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) for not utilising the Airtel Money well.
“If NAM is serious about creating a feeder for Malawi Queens, the best investment could have been in schools,” said Malamula.
He said K15 million, a year, is enough for Massa to run netball competitions in schools and bring back the attraction for the girls to be motivated to take netball as a career.
In a separate interview government admitted that absence of corporate financial support in schools has indeed crippled netball in schools.
“As government, we are working hard to ensure there is organized sponsored netball. We have partnered Unicef in the Action for Adolescent Girls sports bonanza. The tournament took place in nine districts this year and we hope we can expand to all the districts,” said minister of Sports Grace Chiumia.
She said Unicef has pumped money in each district.
“We cannot do everything alone as government and we need companies to come in so that the sport can grow in schools,” she said. n