Bingu Stadium
Bingu Stadium built with Chinese Money

Because I received so much feedback last week asking me who will promote Malawian football if the government is estopped in its plans to start building football stadiums for Super league football teams, I have decided to revisit the subject this week with some practical proposals of how FAM, can fix Malawian football through careful strategic planning and not through appropriation of funds from the National Budget. FAM, not the ministry of finance.

In order to address the issue, I have decided to apply a philosophical mind to the football shame that has befallen the country, a shame that has perhaps prompted many a football fun to sympathise or even welcome the crazy idea from the ministry of finance of providing in the national budget some MK1.6 billion of hard-earned taxpayer funds for the building of stadiums. Because I already know that football stadiums are not the answer to Malawi’s football problems (The Malawi Queens are successful at netball and yet they have no stadiums) I have dug deep into the reserves of my governance knowledge to try and understand why our football team is as disappointing as our rotten political framework- always promising so much, raising people’s hopes, and then crushing them by delivering nothing but disappointment.

The truth of the matter is that football in Malawi is on life support, and if no bold and vigilant steps are taken in a hurry to revive it, it will soon be dead altogether. Sorry, Honourable Joseph Mwanamvekha MP, the drastic steps of which I speak do not include wasting taxpayer funds on football stadiums, though.

The real problem, in my view, is a reluctance to try new thinking; a tendency of Malawians to stick to old ideas that have to date already proven to be unworkable. This is demonstrated, of course, by the nation’s satisfaction to keep the same management at the football managing body (FAM), and somehow believing that the football will improve for the better without innovative and creative new thinking.

Walter Nyamilandu
FAM President Walter Nyamirandu

I have no intention to add insult to injury by reminding Malawians that like Robert Mugabe, Walter Nyamilandu’s intention is to grow old and eventually die while still managing football in this country despite the fact that decades of his being at the helm have seen football decline and decline and decline. The failure of football in Malawi cannot be blamed on any one man. It is a governance problem, and I would like to offer a solution.

I would like to begin by suggesting that for football to improve, it will need a serious commitment to grassroots development, and a football management framework or model that can improve the football league. My contention is that by improving the football league, the national team’s performances will also improve, and we will all eventually get to enjoy more our Sunday barbeques on afternoons when the national team is playing.

The solution for changing the face and function of our football league is radical and harsh, but it is necessary. Let FAM write to all registered football teams in the country declaring that in 3 years’ time, every football team wishing to participate in the super league must have its own stadium, its own training facility and a football academy and youth football development program. This should be a mandatory requirement, meaning that any football team, big or small, that does not meet these criteria by the deadline will not be allowed to participate in the super league.

The minimum specifications for the stadiums and minimum requirements for the academies and youth football programs should be researched and developed by FAM based on realistic potential for the teams to raise the necessary finances. Forcing every football team to have a home ground will ensure certainty of revenue on all home matches for every football team, giving it a more certain financial revenue source, the basis upon which the teams can make estimates to meet their overheads and perhaps make plans for future growth.

It is amazing the transformation our football will undergo when every “professional” football team actually has its own ground and football facility instead of simply a clubhouse where players and supports go for booze.

Creative football teams will build larger stadiums, knowing that the larger the number of spectators their stadium can accommodate, the better the revenue. Even more creative teams will have Team shops where team merchandise can be traded, museums that will charge a fee for fans to familiarise themselves with the histories of their teams, and various stalls which will be rented out on match days to various traders at good rental fees- all of which will go to the teams revenue collection and eventually to the team’s development. The teams will soon be able to provide wonderful football academies and youth football development programs, and even fund the buying of players at a more commercial level than is currently the case.

I do not believe that FAM should look to stadiums provided by the government as venues for the football league. As a matter of fact, the National team needs only one football home. In this regard, since the home of the national team is now the new and imposing Bingu National Stadium, Kamuzu Stadium and Mzuzu stadium should be sold to teams in the football league along the lines I have indicated. Speaking of Kamuzu Stadium, that particular arena needs to be demolished and renovated into something smaller and easier to manage. The space it occupies is prime land and would attract plenty of investors- whether in sports, shopping malls, residential flats or some other such developments.

The bottom line of my argument here is very simple. Instead of swearing and shouting and pointing fingers when our national football team loses yet again, instead of thinking that stadiums for football teams should be built with public funds, it is time to start thinking innovatively about our football and come up with new and radical solutions that will develop it in the way it is developed around the world.

Sitting in front of the TV or in pubs and expressing how useless the national team is, or the coach, or Nyamilandu will not achieve the needed change for the better. Satirising the same on social media will amuse many for a day or two, but when Malawi plays Zambia in a month’s time, the pain will return. FAM needs to think differently about football to justify the existence of its personnel.

Oh yes, and I need to say this again: Someone please wake the minister of finance up and tell him to stop thinking that it is the responsibility of the government to provide football stadiums for Bullets and Wanderers or any other football team. IT IS NOT.

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