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Why four Malawi Defence Force clubs?

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In other African countries, top-flight leagues do not have more than two army teams, but there are questions as to why the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) is spending tax-payers’ money on four clubs in the TNM Super League when football is not the soldiers’ core responsibility.

Botswana for instance, has the Botswana Defence Force XI. In Rwanda, only APR represents the country in the top league whereas Angola has Primeiro de Agosto. Zambia’s top army clubs are Green Buffaloes and Red Arrows.

In Ethiopian Premier League too, only Defence Force SC, represents the military in the league, but it Malawi, MDF funds in the Super League Moyale Barracks (cup specialists), Mafco, Red Lions and Kamuzu Barracks (outgoing Super League champions).

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In total, MDF has 13 teams, including those from the lower leagues.

Apart from Moyale and KB, the impact of the rest of the army teams in the Super League is minimal. A few years ago, MDF selected top players from other army teams and had them sign for Lions, but results never improved for the Zomba outfit.

Malawi Police Service is represented in the Super League by Blue Eagles only, and it makes economic sense as the core responsibility of the cops is law enforcement.

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Asked if they would consider having just one strong team in the Super League, MDF Public Relations Officer, Paul Chiphwanya, asked for more time before commenting on the issue.

“We said this earlier that we will maintain four teams in the subsequent seasons. For now, I can say we are happy that we have all of them [the teams] and they are doing relatively well,” Chiphwanya said, without necessarily responding to the issue of the MDF being represented by four teams in the Super League.

Minister of Labour, Sports, Youth and Manpower Development, Francis Kasaila, said MDF makes its decisions independently on teams that compete in the Super League.

“As long as MDF’s decision to have four teams in the Super League is in line with their objectives, then they are obliged to do so.

“Whatever funding goes to MDF, it is supposed to cater for every activity they intend to do in a particular financial year. That money is there [for them]to achieve what they want to achieve, that is why they spend it that way,” Kasaila said.

Super League of Malawi (Sulom) General Secretary, Williams Banda, said their mandate is to take on board every team that earns Super League promotion.

“Sulom is just on the receiving end. We have no mandate on the monetary regime of the country.

“As long as the teams graduate [from the Premier divisions], and they have sponsors, then they are eligible to play in the Super League. We are ready to receive any team,” he said.

However, the presence of four MDF teams in the Super League is against the Fifa-driven Lilongwe Declaration of 2009 which resolved that the league must not have more than two clubs from the same institution.

Fifa feared that the presence of more teams, in the league, from one institution could be a recipe for compromising results and make the playing ground uneven.

Fifa also recommended the trimming of the Super League from 15 to 12 teams, but Sulom annual general meeting ended up bloating the league to 16 teams to accommodate Premier Bet Wizards, who, having survived through a boardroom decision last season, have been relegated this year.

For now, MDF’s decision to maintain four teams in the Super League will continue to, unnecessarily, cost tax-payers dearly. In developed leagues, armies are not represented by teams in top leagues.

Roughly, a Super League team needs about K100 million to keep going in a season. The soldiers are also into basketball, volleyball, athletics, boxing, bodybuilding and taekwondo.

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