THE future of one of the most prominent teams in the Southern Region Football League (SRFL) Premier Division, Mitra Icons, is becoming more uncertain with each passing day.
The team’s training sequence at Makata Primary School ground in Blantyre’s Ndirande Township has been eratic, to say the least. Only new players and a few old faces residing close to the training ground have been turning up for the training sessions scattered here and there during the off season break.
According to inside sources, most of the players who starred in the regional league last season have not been making it to the sessions because there was no money for their training allowances.
This means that there has not been much happening at the team since the season ended in December last year. One of the team’s coaches, Heston Munthali, confirmed that training was officially scheduled to resume on Wednesday, but failed due to some logistical challenges.
“We have several players who require transport allowances to travel to our training sessions. We are trying to finalise payment of the money so that these players are also able to join us in training,” Munthali said.
Now, what boggles the mind is the fact that the team that almost earned promotion to the Super League last season is trying to resume training with just a week to go before kickoff of the regional league.
Mitra missed promotion to the top flight league by just a point after finishing on 83 points while eventual champions, Blantyre United, ended on 84. For a good part of the league, Mitra looked destined for promotion as they maintained top position up to the final week when Blantyre United upstaged them.
They even managed to produce the league’s top goal scorer, Misheck Botomani, who busted the net 44 times. Munthali believes that a week will be enough for the team to revive its fortunes and relaunch its Super League promotion campaign. But one major setback that the team has to contend with is the loss of some of its key players.
Captain Osman Balala, defender Mada Chiumia and top marksman, Botomani, are all training with other teams. Balala and Chiumia are with Nchalo United while Botomani is at Premier Bet Wizards after his move to Nyasa Big Bullets fell through.
The skipper says the team’s players are all in low spirits after management’s failure to address several of their concerns. He cited the sharing of the K750,000 prize money which the team won after coming second in the Masters Security Servicessponsored SRFL and outstanding game bonuses for five matches. “We are all disheartened with what is happening at the team.
The officials promised to meet us at the training ground to sort the matter out but they never showed up. This was a big disappointment for us as we expected to be told what the future holds for us,” Balala said.
However, Munthali insisted that all is well at the team and all the players are still with the team. The team was previously trading as Ndirande Icons before current Bullets General Secretary, Albert Chigoga, took over as sponsor and renamed it Mitra Icons.
Chigoga said it was sad that there are certain quarters that are fomenting divisions and animosity between the players and management for reasons he does not understand. He disclosed that he invested over K4 million last season to help the team compete for Super League promotion.
“I motivated the team in a way that no other team in the Premier Division did. I took the team from relegation positions to title contenders who missed Super League promotion by just a point. So
why should anyone work towards dividing the team when things are working?” Chigoga querried. He said people should understand that sponsoring a team in the regional league is a charitable cause as there are no returns.
Chigoga gave the prize money of K750,000 the team got for coming second as an example, against his investment of close to K5 million. “And for your information, there was no agreement whatsoever that the prize money will be shared between the club and its players. We would like to re-invest the money for the benefit of the club,” Chigoga explained, adding that the players’ conduct borders on indiscipline and will backfire on them.
On the game bonuses, Chigoga described the players’ act of taking the matter to the media as being misguided.
“This is a club administration issue. What do they want to achieve by taking it to the media? There are people responsible for handling such issues within the club setup. These players are misguided. They are the ones with records of indiscipline in the team. Am not surprised,” he pointed out.
Chigoga claimed that several teams have been alerted about developments at Mitra Icons and are trying to take advantage by asking for sponsorship. He stated that the club has contracts with all the players and they cannot sign for any team on their own.
“Companies shy away from sponsoring teams because of such bad attitudes. This is a wayward manner of doing business. No player can leave Mitra Icons without our clearance,” Chigoga said. He conceded that three players have expressed the desire to leave the club but declined to name them.