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Simama league’s highs and lows

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Despite several ups and downs, the 2016 Northern Region Football Association (NFRA) Simama Premier Division, which is coming to an end, was relatively well-managed and exciting.

The 20-member division rolled into action in February, and since then it has never been short of drama—on and off the pitch.

For Kaporo Stars, 2016 will be a campaign to forget.

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The Karonga-based side was left in the cold after its owner and sponsor, Alufeyo Chipanga Banda, dumped the team.

Banda jumped ship after he fell out with NFRA’s top dogs about his treasurer’s candidacy during the association’s elections.

This caused the team to start begging from well-wishers to fund the team’s travel expenses.

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Overall, during week 21 of the league, four matches were abandoned due to referees’ controversial decisions.

In fact, a game involving current leaders, Chitipa United and Lufita, was abandoned after a referee allowed a Chitipa player to take a spot-kick while there was no goalkeeper in Lufita’s goal.

A month later, NRFA fined all teams and players that were involved in the fracas that followed those abandonments.

In another turn of events, Chitipa striker, Abel Mwakilama, who is also the league’s top scorer, was manhandled by Zolozolo United supporters while he was celebrating scoring a hat-trick against them.

O n a p o s i t i v e n o t e , Mwakilama earned a call-up to Malawi Under-20 National Football Team that participated in the Cosafa Youth Championship in South Africa.

Generally, the season had its own positives.

This is so considering the controversies that marred the preceding campaigns.

During this year’s campaign, NRFA was able to produce the league’s statistics, including that of top scorers, with Mwakilama coming on top followed by Suzgo Siyeni of Kaporo and Shenton Banda of Luwinga United on second and third places, respectively.

This was in contrast to the 2015/16 season.

Last season, NRFA shocked the football fraternity when it came out of its cocoon and admitted that it had failed to identify its top scorer.

NRFA Chairperson, Lameck Khonje, blamed the lack of statistics on referees’ failure to produce match reports, especially in the second round of the league.

This provoked criticism from some analysts, who accused the region’s football governing body for failing to manage the league.

In the 2014/15 season, a dispute erupted between Kaporo and Mzuni FC over their aborted game.

But NRFA awarded maximum points to Mzuni.

At the very end of that season, another controversy erupted between Chilumba Barracks and Mzuni over the division’s championship.

Again, NRFA declared Mzuni as the champions, a decision which Football Association of Malawi (Fam) nodded to.

The Mzuzu City-based side eventually got promoted to the TNM Super League at the expense of Chilumba.

Following the controversy, the then NRFA Executive Committee member, Aubrey Shaba, revealed that the wrangles were due to the personal egos of some members.

He said that the decisions were hastily made, and were not openly discussed by the full executive.

NRFA’s view of the 2016 season

With Chitipa on the brink of being crowned 2016/17 Simama Premier Division champions, Khonje said this year’s league was fairy competitive.

He said although they faced some hurdles, the season has largely been a success.

“Most referees in the league were not qualified as such we had some difficulties with officiation. We secured [K 4 million] sponsorship which assisted us in conducting referees’ training and eventually, their performance improved,” he said.

Khonje added that the minor controversies witnessed in last season provided the league administrators some lessons.

Analyst’s view

Following the previous season’s controversies, renowned Northern Region soccer analyst, Elias Gomile, has warned NRFA that such wrangles can scare away sponsors.

He pleaded with NRFA officials to end their in-house fights and put much emphasis on running the league professionally.

Asked for his overall view on this year’s campaign, Gomile said there was an improvement, adding that the region’s administrators deserve credit.

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