All is not well in the Malawi camp at Lilongwe Girls Secondary School where athletes are preparing for the 2022 African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games which the country will host from December 2 to 11 in Lilongwe.
A visit to the school by Malawi News crew this week revealed the pathetic conditions that the athletes and coaches are living in.
A first time visitor to the hostels might be tempted to think that life at the place is normal but entry into the rooms will make one realise that there is a lot that is not right at the place.
The air is filled with a strong smell of dirty clothes, boots and socks.
The beds have mattresses that do not have decent blankets befitting the status of a team that is representing an entire nation.
Most of the beds are also without mosquito nets, hence exposing the athletes to mosquito bites that are leaving some of them feeling unwell as they wake up in the morning.
The best authorities have done is to provide them with repellent cream.
In short, the conditions in camp resemble the life of self-boarding learners at a primary school in a remote village and not in the middle of a bustling capital city.
At the time of being called into camp, the athletes and officials were asked to bring their own beddings, plates, cups and spoons.
As if this is not enough, the athletes and coaches are surviving on a poor diet with some even missing lunch.
Their breakfast has tea without milk whereas their lunch or supper is nsima or rice with sausages.
This is despite the requirement to put athletes on a special diet as they train in camp.
One of the athletes said such conditions are not creating a good environment for them to do well during the games.
’’We are back to the days of primary school camping where we improvised everything. This is very bad for us and the nation. And how would we be expected to win medals under such pathetic conditions? This is not on,’’ he said.
The athletes are pocketing K1,000 as a daily upkeep allowance with the coaches getting K6,000.
Against such meagre rates for the athletes and officials, drivers are getting K30,000 as daily allowance whereas doctors are pocketing K45,000.
Another athlete, who also asked for anonymity, said the preparations are in disarray.
“We expect to be motivated because we are representing the country. We are carrying Malawi flag and we would have loved for the conditions to be better,’’ the athlete said.
At least 305 athletes reported for the camp training which ends tomorrow.
This is the second camping after the first selective camping that took place in Blantyre.
During the first camping, the athletes and coaches were accommodated at Malawi National Council of Sports hostels and were provided with everything including beddings.
Sports Council Public Relations Officer Edgar Ntulumbwa admitted that there were several challenges.
’’Indeed, every athlete and coach was advised to bring his/her personal beddings including plates, cups and spoons. At first, we had challenges to provide good food but everything was sorted out quickly,’’ Ntulumbwa said.
Poor preparations have been the main reason for Malawian athletes’ failure to qualify for big international competitions and win medals.
For instance, the country has gone 40 years without winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games.
Sports analyst George Kaudza Masina said success is a journey.
“We always expect too much from our athletes but at the same time ignoring their welfare. The success of an athlete comes from far and not only on the day of the games.
“For an athlete to succeed, he has to be well prepared physically and psychologically. Motivation also plays a crucial role in an athlete’s performance,” Kaudza Masina said.
The athletes in camp are from football, basketball, athletics, lawn tennis, para Olympic, judo, taekwondo, netball, volleyball and boxing. Swimming and e-sport will go into camp later.
Team Malawi will be hoping to do better in this year’s Games after lifting 29 medals during the 2021 event in Maseru, Lesotho.
The medals comprised two gold, 10 silver and 17 bronze.