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Athletes wait forever for their peanuts

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After travelling for 3,000 kilometres in search of the glory they never realised at the World Cross Country Championship in Uganda, four Malawian athletes face a lengthy wait for their meagre allowances.

Harry Sichali, Kephas Kasiteni, Chancy Master and Cecia Mhango, who for six days travelled to and from Kampala by public transport via Tanzania in March, are yet to receive the K175,000 which Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) promised each of them.

In an interview, some of the athletes complained that it was unfair for the association to keep them waiting for their little play.

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AAM General Secretary, Frank Chitembeya, admitted that the association was stone-broke to pay the athletes.

The trip, according to Chitembeya, cost K1.3 million in bus fares and other expenses.

“We should have sent one athlete on the ticket of International Association of Athletics Federation (Iaaf) but we felt it wise to send more athletes to the competition and give them international exposure,” Chitembeya explained.

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“Our estimation of the bus fare for each athlete was K130,000 but it turned out to be K160,000, hence this ate into our budget. Iaaf is also yet to send the $500 (K358,000) allocation for the one athlete.”

The association survives on Iaaf grants and the government’s funding.

Chitembeya added that their efforts to hold income generating activities were crippled by the very same problem—lack of funds.

However, what is clear is that AAM did not plan properly for the trip to Uganda, subjecting the athletes to harsh conditions on the road. The athletes returned home empty-handed.

While the association claims to have forced itself into sending more athletes for them to gain exposure in Uganda, most of them, such as Master and Sichali, have been competing for over a decade, hence past their prime.

Malawi struggles to produce top athletes in the mould of Catherine Chikwakwa-Chunda, Kenneth Dzekedzeke, Matthews Kambale, John Mwathiwa and Francis Munthali due to lack of long-term athletes development programme.

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