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No sport can develop without deep investment

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After the disappointment we’ve had with football, the next sport that could have put Malawi on the map is netball but unfortunately this sport is poorly supported in terms of infrastructure and other resources.

Over six years ago, former president late Bingu wa Mutharika pledged to construct a state-of-the-art indoor netball court but nothing was worked out until Bingu again reminded Netball Association of Malawi (Nam) of his pledge and he even threatened that if Nam won’t submit its plans then he would withdraw the pledge.

When Bingu died, the media reminded Nam and the other sports authorities that the netball court pledge was not a personal promise but it was supposed to be picked up by those responsible so that the president could approve the project as government.

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But up to now, that project is nowhere to be seen. The netball teams that contribute players for the Queens still play on outdoor concrete surface courts. Continued use of such courts is hazardous to ankles as well as if they fall during matches.

The Queens cannot even invite the top four teams, New Zealand, Australia, England and Jamaica, for sparring matches, which are called Test Matches, because we don’t have the right infrastructure. I don’t think these top four teams can accept to come and play on concrete and outdoor surfaces.

They are also denied a chance to ask the top teams to travel to their countries for the Tests because of poor funding. Nam just waits for the top teams, including South Africa, to invite Malawi to their countries on fully-funded trips.

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The Queens failed to participate at the Africa Netball Championship because of lack of funds and struggled to receive funds to travel to Australia for the World Netball Championship.

Minister of Sports Grace Chiumia did not give any confidence on the progress of the indoor court project in yesterday’s edition of The Daily Times, citing lack of resources as the excuse. She only said she is talking to several partners to mobilise resources but could not promise much.

We can only hope that such talks with the ‘partners’ should not concentrate on one region but all of them. We can start modestly by constructing an infrastructure that in future will give room for rehabilitation into a state-of-the-art.

The rural areas should also be targeted by affording them attractively funded tournaments. It’s only the urban teams that participate in tournaments because the rural teams cannot afford to travel away from their bases.

But if they can have their own tournaments, those who can do well can be brought at a national stage to compete amongst themselves where teams and national coaches can tap talent from.

I know it’s a tall order but, hey, that can make the Minister and other concerned officials leave a lasting legacy.

Otherwise, it will always be a case of so near yet so far for the Queens who only participate at the highest level once in a while the top four teams, New Zealand, Australia, England and Jamaica and also South Africa are always playing against each other in Tests where they garner more experience to be used in the top tournaments — the Commonwealth Games and the World Netball Championship.

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