So, while the football world was lavishing praises on Mohamed Salah after he completed a hat-trick of individual accolades by lifting the 2017 African Player of the Year Award during a gala held in Ghana on Thursday, in Malawi we were struggling to make sense out of a cryptic puzzle that is Blessings Tembo.
The Egyptian football genius, on that night of glitz and glamour, added the Caf award to his haul of accolades that include Arab Player of the Year 2017 and 2017 BBC Africa Footballer of the Year awards, thanks to his stupendous haul of 23 goals in 29 matches, a sweet left-foot, deft touch and cunning runs.
Few doubt that if Salah remains on this fast lane of his football career, sooner or later, he will break the duopoly of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo, men who lead two one-man teams that compete against each other in their own league of superstars.
Back home, while we are dispatching our football stars to Zambia—the land where our mother go to buy zitenje –and South Africa for trials at some nonedescript teams, neutrals could only sit down and marvel at Salah as the bearded short man stole the thunder from his team-mate Sadio Mane in Accra.
If our best footballers can only make it to Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique, then it probably explains why the Super League’s experienced players such as Tembo, do not understand what signing a contract means.
For starters, Tembo is a Be Forward Wanderers player who, after signing a three-year contract last week, made a u-turn that he wants to play for his former employers, Silver Strikers.
Maybe it is not all doom and gloom for the Malawian footballers.
Just when the tunnels appeared so dark with Tembo making a 360 degrees’ turn that seemed to border on a curse, news of the birth of Football Players Association of Malawi (Fpam) provided something positive to talk about.
The characters involved in Fpam, Walter Nyamilandu (a former footballer and current Football Association of Malawi president), George Jana (a former basketballer and now Malawi National Council of Sports Executive Secretary) and Super League of Malawi (Sulom) president, Innocent Bottoman, surely appreciate the challenges that athletes face in Malawi.
Local athletes badly need financial literacy lessons and career guidance. Life after a career in sports is an issue that Fpam also want to address and so is medical support to current and former players.
Any initiative meant to empower the main actors, the athletes, is encouraging but history tells us that Malawians are good at launching initiatives which are never implemented.
The examples are plenty. Sulom wanted to empower footballers through Mpira Sacco, a song that is now fading. Putting players on medical cover has also proved to be tall order.
Other bodies for athletes such as the Sportsman’s Union have struggled for space in this crowded sports arena where hand-to-mouth and lip services are the order of the day.
In the final analysis, Fpam is a good association but the association shall be judged on how it implements its projects.
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