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Spell of netball controversy

SECOND BEST—The Queens finished behind the Spar Proteas

HOME BATTLE–The Queens against Namibia’ Desert Jewels

This year will go down the memory lane as one of the most controversial years in netball circles following administrative woes that blurred the sport.

There were several activities that could have made this year one of the best but Netball Association of Malawi (Nam) kept committing kindergarten mistakes.

Queens win Cosana Tri- Nation but allowances issue pops up

Malawi hosted the Cosana Tri-Nation tournament which attracted the Queens, Namibia’s Desert Jewels and Zimbabwe Gems at Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (Kuhes) Sports Complex in Blantyre in June.

The Queens won the round-robin tournament with two games to spare.

However, the senior team’s success in the Cosana Tri-Nation tournament was dented by administrative woes as Queens players and about 30 bench officials cried foul over allowances.

Despite the concerns, Nam President Abigail Shariff downplayed the issue, saying everything was in order as the association was finalising logistics.

According to some players, who did not want to be mentioned then, Nam officials assured them that they would receive the game allowances soon after the competition but that did not happen.

Ironically, bench officials, who were supporting the umpires’ desk and other logistics, equally pressed for their allowances.

Queens lose test matches in SA, Nam blackouts media

The Queens had a chance to prepare for Commonwealth Games having been invited to participate in test matches in South Africa in July.

They lost all the matches against South Africa’s Spar Proteas and England’s Roses.

However, Minister of Youth and Sports Richard Chimwendo Banda backed Queens’ performance, saying the team took part in the test matches to evaluate their performance against third-ranked England and fifth-ranked South Africa’s Spar Proteas.

“It was good that the team participated in practice matches ahead of the Commonwealth Games later this month. They needed to play against top sides to gauge their strength and weaknesses.

“Having done well against relatively lowly ranked sides during the Cosana Tri-Nation tournament, the Queens needed a proper yardstick to fine-tune thoroughly before the side travels to England. In this case, the results do not matter but the lessons and how the Queens move forward,” Chimwendo Banda told this paper.

However, the senior side’s participation in the test matches was not without drama as Nam issued a blackout to the media soon after the tournament, claiming it was a closed-door contest.

This prompted Malawi National Council of Sports to ask Nam to release results of the test match against England.

Nam held on to the results amid reports that the Queens suffered a humiliating defeat.

Writing through his Facebook page, Sports Council Board Chairperson Sunduzwayo Madise demanded the immediate release of the results.

“Nam must immediately release results of the Queens match in RSA [Republic of South Africa]. Sports Council was told that the Queens were going for a Tri-Nation tournament. Their travel is sponsored by taxpayers. Unless Council was lied to, and that wouldn’t be nice,” Madise wrote.

According to results, which Nam later released, the Queens lost to South Africa 73-42.

England then beat Malawi 61-53 before defeating the Queens again 31- 26.

The Queens wrapped up the practice matches with another defeat to the hosts when they went down 57- 49.

Queens finish 7th at Commonwealth Games

Next on the Queens’ menu was the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games from July 28 to August 8.

Another incident also blurred the Queens prior to departure.

The rift between Malawi National Netball Team Coach Peace Chawinga- Kaluwa and Nam officials took a new twist when a 12-member squad was unveiled ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

Netball fanatics reacted angrily on social media after learning that Nam was imposing some players on the coach.

The bone of contention was the inclusion of shooter Tendai Masamba at the expense of experienced Sindie Simtowe-Msowoya.

Sources indicated that Chawinga-Kaluwa had opted for Simtowe- Msowoya, as she plays at either goal-attack or goal-shooter, at the expense of Masamba, who is naturally a goal shooter.

However, Nam felt Masamba, as a budding player, was supposed to be in the squad as part of development plans.

Chawinga-Kaluwa declined to comment on the issue but Nam General Secretary Isaac Chimwala said the issue was water under the bridge as both players were earmarked to travel.

Eventually, Malawi Queens finished on seventh position after losing to emerging Africa power house Uganda’s Cranes 56-43 in a battle for fifth/sixth place.

Second best in Africa

Following their return from England, the Queens headed for the 2023 Africa Netball World Cup qualifiers in Pretoria, South Africa, where they finished behind the hosts.

It was not all rosy again as at some point the Queens threatened to boycott the competition over unpaid game bonuses.

Nevertheless, the Queens reaped the rewards of taking part in the 2022 Netball World Cup Africa zone qualifiers after moving to position six from seven on the latest World Netball rankings.

The Queens displaced Uganda, who fell to position seven, having opted to miss the Netball World Cup qualifiers held in Pretoria, South Africa, in August.

During the qualifying tournament, the Queens finished as runners-up after losing to hosts, South Africa.

However, Nam was thrown into fresh turmoil following revelations that it was yet to pay game bonuses to the Queens players amounting to about K4.8 million.

Despite all the controversies, the Queens finished the year on position six in latest end-of-the-year rankings.

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