Address by the FAM President Walter Nyamilandu Manda at the FAM Annual General Assembly at Sunbird Livingstonia in Salima on Saturday June 26, 2021.
We have gathered here today at this Football Annual General Assembly to take stock of what the game of football has been like in Malawi in the year just gone by.
And I am delighted and feel honoured to speak to you as we give this account of the strides we have made and outline the plans we have to further develop football in Malawi.
As we all know, the past one and half years have been tough for everyone in every respect. For every single day in that period, COVID-19 has been an enormous, era-defining story around the world.
Ladies and gentlemen; we are living in perilous times because of the pandemic.
That we can meet here today physically while enjoying good health is something to thank God the Almighty for.
And we do so while we carry on our mind very painful memories of the dear brothers and sisters we have lost along the way to COVID-19.
Coronavirus has stretched human wisdom capability to the limit. It has infected our entire social and economic fabric in a manner not seen in recent history.
The game of football has similarly suffered.
We have witnessed suspension of football games. The climate at the stadium has not been the same without the fans who bring tremendous excitement and glamour to football.
This turn of events has effectively paralysed our operations and posed a huge threat to the survival of the game.
Yet, we can also take pride in the fact that this moment of immense trial of human capacity only brought the best out of us. As the crisis raged, we summoned the best of our instincts to survive. As coronavirus wreaked havoc, we got out of our comfort zone and refused to settle for less. Against the rough odds of COVID-19, football has thrived on domestically and internationally.
Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, we can pat ourselves on the back that Malawi football has shown a lot of resilience and weathered the COVID-19 storm.
As you will know, this did not just happen. We undertook a number of interventions that have helped to safeguard our football human capital through the COVID-19 Relief Support.
We at FAM are delighted that we made good use of the FIFA COVID-19 grant. We have equitably distributed the resources to a broad spectrum of beneficiaries. These include players, officials, clubs and affiliates. We delivered the support in the form of monthly stipends, relief food packages and grants. We believe these have made a significant impact on the well-being of the football family in Malawi.
In this respect, let me report that since June 2020, we have spent a total of K899 million from the budget of K1.35 billion. This leaves us with the balance of K451 million. We will have dispensed this amount by the end of the 2020-21 football season.
Distinguished delegates, for your appraisal of the transactions related to this relief package, we have published a report of the COVID-19 fund expenditures.
On this note, I want to commend the COVID-19 Football Task Force for rising to the challenge by delivering on its mandate.
Among other things, the taskforce administered the COVID-19 Stimulus Package and developed COVID-19 Football Restart Protocols which gradually took us along to returning to play.
I thank the taskforce for a job well done!
It is to its credit that we bask in the glory of being singled out by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 as an industry that was well organized from paperwork to execution.
The pandemic has been a wake-up call to football. We have endured the hardship of playing the game behind closed doors for the first time
And I am afraid to say we are not out of the woods yet. We must still brace for tough times ahead as the third wave of COVID-19 looms.
This puts us under tremendous pressure to come up with ways and means to ensure we continue to thrive in the foreseeable future. We have to take these steps bearing in mind that the FIFA COVID-19 grant was a one-off support.
Therefore, we need to devise a business model that can generate revenue for us on a sustainable basis. We cannot continue to rely on sponsors who are also reeling from the same disastrous effects of the pandemic.
Let me underline this: We need to seriously think of monetising the game of football and shift from dependency syndrome.
The Executive Committee that you ushered into office in December 2019 is there to serve the cause of football in Malawi and it has been undaunted by the challenges triggered by COVID-19.
As the pandemic raged, we still took bold steps to steer Malawi football, leveraging on the ‘Raising the Bar’ promise. Some of the milestones we have registered during this period include the following:
• Launching Mpira Pay TV,
• Introducing medical scheme for male and female football players in the elite leagues,
• Establishing attractive remuneration packages for the national team players, and
• Publication of the Mpira Magazine on a monthly basis.
But the crowning achievement of all is the Flames’ qualification to the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations that will be staged in Cameroun in 2022. As we all know, the Flames qualified for the tournament through a group that was fearlessly contested.
The team showed tremendous character to overturn the tables. We still savour the memories of the famous victory against Uganda at home which was a decider of our qualification.
As FAM, we are proud that the Flames have answered the call of soccer loving Malawians by being amongst the elite in Africa. The team’s achievement is also testament that the rebuilding exercise that we embarked on 4 years ago has finally paid dividends. Credit goes to the national coach, Meke Mwase and his technical panel for assembling a competitive squad that has delivered the goods. Under them, we have set a new record in our history books as we have now qualified to the Africa Cup of Nations for the third time — the last time being in 2010.
We do know that Flames are considered underdogs at the tournament. But we do not care about how lowly others think about us. We are determined to shock the world with our unique style of play. We are going to
Cameroun to make a difference and to prove a point. Those that will underestimate us will do so at their own peril.
On this note, I would like to rally the fans to give the Flames the much-needed moral support. Let us plan to travel to Cameroun to cheer the national team. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to show our pride in our country.
Notwithstanding the positive strides we have made in Malawi football, we are hungry for more because we know we are capable of achieving much more. We have set our sight on producing more high performing athletes that can break new boundaries.
To this end, we are reviewing our technical structure so that we can develop world class talent. You might have seen that we are already in the market, hunting for a new Technical Director.
This new technical director will champion the change agenda that we require to transform Malawi football in the technical space.
We are also extending this approach to Women’s Football. We are recruiting expertise that will be dedicated to the cause of Women’s Football. We believe that Women’s Football has tremendous potential to go to the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations because of the excellent talent that is at our disposal.
We have failed to make meaningful progress in the past because of lacking the competitive edge that comes with excellent organisation and sound tactical discipline. Now, we are determined to turn the corner. There is no doubt in mind that Women’s Football in Malawi will very soon match the good standing of our netballers.
Furthermore, we will also be embarking on a project to broaden scouting of talent in the rural and urban areas in all the 28 districts of the country. To this end, the FAM District Leagues will kick off end July in all the districts as promised with a sponsorship of K60 million sourced from FIFA Forward Funding. This is the bedrock of our talent development.
It is our desire to revamp district football to make it more vibrant and competitive. We will be riding on the strong foundations that have been laid by affiliate leagues. Our prime objective is to unearth raw talent from the districts so that we can build stronger national teams. I will therefore be challenging our technical office to improve our scouting ability by being present at football matches to identify top talent across the country.
These are technology-smart days and football cannot be left behind the innovations and miss out on the resulting efficiencies.
Therefore, we will be automating competitions through the Competition Matching System which is a platform which is being supported by FIFA. The platform will improve scheduling of fixtures and generation of statistics that will facilitate making of accurate decisions. Suffice to say that the automation will revolutionize the way we administer football competitions.
These technological advancements in football will be complemented by improvements we are making in Mpira TV. We aim to have real time statistics on the performance of matches and players. We believe this will support coaches as they will be able to review performance of previous matches and study data of opponents in order to devise a suitable game plan.
The digital age has come and we are taking full advantage of it to develop football in Malawi.
We believe digitisation will also assist in improving the standards of refereeing in the country by ensuring information is readily available. As you will agree, in recent times, officiation has become an area of great concern to us.
We are determined to improve the standards of refereeing by also devising a robust process of appointing match officials and assessing their performance.
And we do realise that there is need to improve the competence of match officials with regular training and development courses to minimise errors and questionable decisions on the field of play. We have already started this process, alongside other necessary reforms. We hope to bring the best out of our match officials.
As I conclude, let me applaud the individual members of FAM for your sacrifice and for your trust and confidence in me as your leader.
Against stiff opposition from enemies of progress, we have remained steadfast and resolute in our mandate to develop football in Malawi.
Some of you have been persecuted; you have been called all sorts of names and have suffered all sorts of pressure.
But you have stood firm in defence of what is right for football.
Today, in this moment, I want you to know that you remain my heroes. And this is my promise to you: I will never let you down. I urge you all to stay focused on ‘Raising the Bar’. Our mission is to move Malawi football forward.
And we shall not fail!
For us to achieve all we have been able to achieve, our sponsors have been great partners in our mission. Allow me therefore, Distinguished Delegates, to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the sponsors for their unwavering support towards Malawi football.
We remain deeply indebted to FDH Bank, TNM, First Capital Bank, Airtel, Eco Bank, Chipiku, Simama, Rab Processors and many others. We believe you can now see that Malawi football is repaying the faith you have shown in the local game. We thank you.
Finally, it is my expectation that fans out there will reciprocate the support from our sponsors by ensuring violence-free games and patronising their businesses. We have grown together. And we can grow stronger together beyond this point.
I wish you all fruitful deliberations during the General Assembly.
May the Almighty God bless you All.
Thank you for your attention.