MATTERS of club ownership are a very crucial element of the game of football across the world. Clubs have successfully managed to turn their performances around upon the changing of ownership.
With change in club ownership comes resources and plans to improve the team in all aspects of the game. But while billionaires all over the world find club ownership to be lucrative business with massive turnovers declared, the scenario in Malawi is different.
Owning a team in any part of the country is about pumping resources into the venture without expecting any meaningful returns. This means that any individual or organisation that goes into club ownership should be prepared to do so largely for charity.
That happens to be the case for owner of TNM Super League side Blantyre United, Lawson Nakoma. Nakoma took over the team formerly known as Escom United Reserves in a move that saved it from disbanding after loss of sponsorship. He has worked hard over the years to see the team campaign in the top flight before eventually being relegated some four years ago.
But the team managed to fight its way back into the Super League with Nakoma continuing to own it. Getting started in a rural set up Nakoma was born in Phalombe where his father was a businessman. Growing up like every child, he used to play football at primary school level and harboured ambitions of becoming a professional player.
“I played alongside big names like Kenneth Kandulu (formerly Wanderers) and Richard Sogoja (formerly ACT Stars) but my parents did not want me to be a footballer. So they discouraged me from getting involved with the game in any way and I felt bitter.
However, I had no choice apart from respecting their advice as my parents. But I still loved the game and continued following it with passion outside the pitch,” he says.
He continued to follow the game throughout his secondary school and college days while Dreaming to harvest fruits of endurance strictly sticking to his parents’ orders to keep away from playing. Graduation into club administration In 1998, Nakoma joined Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) where he is still working up to now.
This marked another step in his football life as he was elected treasurer of the now defunct Escom United under the chairmanship of Sunduzwayo Madise.
“I served the team until 2008 when I fell in love with the team’s reserve side which had been introduced three years earlier. In the same year, I was recalled for the Technical Director’s role at both the senior and reserve teams. The senior team qualified to play in the Super League and the company dropped the reserve side,” he says.
Nakoma says after Escom dropped the reserve team, he teamed up with other individuals in a bid to keep the team going.
“We did not want the team to die because it had talented players who truly loved the game. I worked hand-in-hand with other officials like Peter Tsamwa, Malekano Chisoma and Patrick Kundinga and that was the birth of Blantyre United,” he explains.
The team’s name then changed to Blantyre United and continued campaigning in the Southern Region Football League. With pressure to manage the senior side and the newlyrenamed lower league team, he decided to quit Escom United and devote all his time and energy to running the affairs of the team he later became the owner.
The officials toiled day and night to eventually help the team earn Super League promotion a few years down the line. Super League hurdles Nakoma describes running a Super League side from the pocket as a tough and expensive venture.
“It is not an easy task especially these days when we are talking of giving players salaries, unlike in the past when they were being given allowances only. As individuals, we labour to raise resources for the management of the team. The only time we get money is when we sell a player and this does not offset our expenses on the team in any way.
But since our desire is to give the boys a platform to showcase their talent and have something to keep them busy, we just carry on without minding about our expenses to keep the team going. Our satisfaction comes out of seeing our players going far with their talent,” Nakoma narrates.
He refuses to be called the sole owner of the team, saying he has other partners who contribute to the survival of the club. Nakoma says the club has an executive committee which is responsible for running its day-to-day activities from an office in downtown Blantyre.
Dreaming big Nakoma envies the likes of Kaizer Motaung and Irvin Khoza who own South Africa’s most followed teams, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates respectively. He says with support from all relevant sectors, it is possible for him to grow Blantyre United into a viable business entity capable of attracting investors.
“With the coming of Club Licensing, I see a Blantyre United which will exist forever with its own structures. I would like to change the country’s football landscape by turning the club into a truly professional entity,” he says.
Despite being in the administration of the team for a longtime, Nakoma says he does not dream of seeing himself anywhere outside Blantyre United. He maintains that he is satisfied with the job he is doing at the club and does not intend to go anywhere.
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