By Mphatso Nkuonera
Lilongwe, Mana: The Malawi National Netball Team, dubbed the ‘Queens’, has all reasons to smile following First Lady, Madame Monica Chakwera’s pledge to support and uplift the team and the netball sport in the country.
Madame Chakwera said this on Monday when she hosted the Queens to a breakfast gala at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on Monday.
The First Lady’s courtesy comes after Malawi National Netball Team recently won the COSANA Tri-Nations Tournament played in Blantyre involving Zimbabwe, Namibia and Malawi where the Queens won all the games that they played.
While accepting to be the Queens’ Matron, Chakwera expressed hope that the national netball team would regain its ‘position one’ in Africa which they had held previously for some time.
“The queens have made this country proud, it was once on position one in Africa, [then] dropped to number two and now [they are] on position three.
“I know they have the ability to claim back the glory. We will work together to make sure you continue shining, as you carry our flag,” said the First Lady.
Chakwera said by winning the trophy, it showed the team is strong.
“Your win tells us a story of unconquered courage, and your courage has made you score higher and higher, proving to be one of the biggest teams on the African soil.
“No wonder you have performed extremely well at the recent tri-national tournament,” she said.
Speaking earlier, Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) President, Abigail Sherrif, while hailing the queens for beating all the teams in the COSANA Tournament, she said the Queens have shortfalls which need to be addressed immediately.
“We are very happy with your performance as a nation. However, these netballers meet several challenges that require immediate interventions namely: underfunding, dusty playing courts and low incentives.
“As NAM, our budget is pegged at K1 billion, but only K150 million has so far been disbursed, making it hard for the Queens to participate in some games, and that alone has made us to lose our grip,” she said.
She praised the tri-national tournament, saying it provided ranking games and an important preparatory step for the forthcoming Commonwealth games slated for July and August this year.
Minister of Sports, Richard Chimwendo Banda agreed with NAM President on the challenges the netball team is facing, but was quick to say government has already taken steps to rectify them.
“As a ministry, we are aware of the country’s lack of good playing pitches and already, we are constructing the Griffin Saenda Court (in Lilongwe), one of the most classic pitches to be, once opened.
“I have also engaged the Malawi National Council of Sports to look into the challenges facing the netball sport and indeed, other sports disciplines, and very soon we will have a direction,” he promised.
The minister, however, admitted that due to lack of resources and good playing pitches in the country’s districts, NAM may find it difficult to scout and spot new talent in those pitches in the outskirts.
On her part, Malawi National Netball Team Captain, Carol Mtukule said the team needs a bus to ease their mobility and requested well-wishers to assist them with one.
Madame Monica Chakwera’s invitation to the breakfast was to demonstrate a token of appreciation for the feat the Queens have achieved after winning the COSANA Tri- Nations Tournament.