If you think discrimination against women in Malawi is only rampant in homes and offices, then you are wrong.
Discrimination has crossed frontiers into domestic football where Super League clubs resist sharing pitches with their female counterparts, thereby denying them exposure and with it, the growth of women football.
In 2011, the now defunct Abramo Queens were denied access to a Lilongwe venue when they wanted to play Kamuzu Barracks women football team. The stadium’s host Super League team had a game later in the day, hence could not entertain the women football match as curtain-raiser.
“It was so sad. Home-ground advantage in Malawi is linked to beliefs. This retards women football. Our club is willing to support women football,” Abramo Queens owner Roy Mdechi narrated the ordeal on Wednesday. Mdechi is now Epac general secretary.
Pioneer women footballer Maggie Chombo-Sadiki admitted on Wednesday that playing on the same venue that a Super League team would use is a near-impossible thing.
“Amati atsikana atisemphera game (They believe that girls will bring them bad luck). Stadium authorities and the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) may allow the fixture to go ahead, but host clubs do not entertain this. Women football badly lacks the platform to sell itself to a wider audience, including sponsors,” said the Blantyre Zero coach-player.
National Women Football Committee (NWFC) chairperson Severia Chalira confirmed: “On paper, the issue is blamed on congestion of fixtures. But in reality, men refuse to have their games curtain-raised by their female counterparts due to superstitious beliefs.
“It is high time people stopped believing in juju and play football. We have had many incidents when women football teams have literally been chased from a stadium. It is only that the women teams do not go as far as lodging official complaints.”
Southern Region Women Football Committee (SRWFC) general secretary Emma Chiwaya corroborated Chalira’s observation. She said women are feared to have diluting effect on charms that are plastered in dressing rooms and on the pitches,” she added.
Central Region Women Football League general secretary Faggie Kazingatchire shared the observation.
“Vuto abambo…(the problem with men) they are very reluctant to accommodate us. As a result, our teams play on substandard pitches and this affects football development. I do not understand why they do this,” Kazingatchire complained.
Sulom general secretary Williams Banda acknowledged the beliefs.
“There is need to change mindset. It is even a challenge to have pre-match ground testing by visiting teams. Most do not entertain curtain-raisers,” he said.
Kamuzu Stadium manager Charles Mhango last week attributed the development to congestion of fixtures as they also host Premier Division games “but the other challenge is that the Super League teams ali ndi zikhulupiliro zawo [have some beliefs].”