Sports council wants to know netball selection criteria

Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) has asked Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) to explain the criteria they will use to select players for the junior national team when there are no youth leagues nationwide.

MNCS sports development manager Ruth Mzengo said this after the local netball governing body presented an K83 million budget to the government through the council for Under-21 Netball World Youth Cup qualifiers in Uganda in May.

This will be the first time in a decade for Malawi to take part in the Netball World Youth Cup. Malawi last appeared at the 2009 event, where the country’s Queens’ shooter Mwawi Kumwenda was spotted by Australian club Peninsula Waves to become Malawi’s first overseas professional netballer.

At present, Malawi has the K8 million Botsalt Southern Region Netball Under-20 League as the only junior netball league.  Southern Region Netball Committee (Sereneco) introduced the contest last year to act as a nursery for national teams.

“We would like to understand how NAM would come up with a junior national team for such a big tournament in the absence of youth development structures,” Mzengo said.

She said recently, NAM has been sending teams to Under-20 and Under-21 tournaments, but the council had no clue where junior players in the squads were spotted from.

“We have potential talents in places such as Likoma Island and Nsanje, but are not given a chance to make it into the national team because there are no youth leagues to act as platforms for showcasing their skills,” Mzengo said.

“We seek clarification not to stop NAM from sending a team to the international event. We should be participating in youth competitions with a purpose of building a strong national team for the future.”

Mzengo said the council has also told NAM to reduce their K83 million budget so the team can have a 15-day camping ahead of the qualifiers and not 30 days as per the association’ request.

“The budget is huge and it needs to be reduced.  Moreover, it is not necessary to have youths in camp for a long time as that can lead to fatigue prior to international competition,” she said.

However, NAM president Khungekile Matiya yesterday said although they do not have national leagues at all levels, they manage to get the cream that represents the country well in international competitions.

“We use competitions such as the Presidential Netball Cup, which is currently underway, to identify players for the junior national teams. This means we know the players that are doing well and can don the national colours,” she said.

On the issue of the Junior Queens’ camp, the  NAM president said they considered one month because being new players, they  need time to prepare.

“For example, the men’s senior national football team regrouped on non-residential basis back in January before going into full-time training early this month for the postponed Africa Cup of Nations [Afcon] qualifiers against Burkina Faso,” she said.

“But with Under-21 national netball team, we are talking about preparing for a tournament that has a number of games within a short period. That should as well explain why we need a month for the girls to be in camp.” Netball analyst Wesley Namasala said without youth leagues, it is difficult to find good players for junior national teams.