Mobile phone network operator Airtel Malawi plc has revived its elite Airtel Top 8 football tourney after a year’s hibernation with a three-year sponsorship pegged at K234 million, an increase from K198 million.
Airtel Malawi plc managing director Charles Kamoto said in Blantyre on Wednesday that the Airtel Top 8, themed Tiyipatse Moto, will see the winner carting home a cool K17 million, up from K15 million in the previous edition.
He said: “What we had before is coming back. And it’s coming back for another three years. As Airtel we are very excited. At Airtel, we believe in football. We love football.
“At every opportunity that we have to partner with football, we always look forward to that. Here we are today, it has happened again.”
Airtel started sponsoring the competition in 2017 and the first three-year deal expired in 2019.
The competition did not take place last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, prompting some sections of the football fraternity to fear it might have gone for good.
But Kamoto said: “In 2020, we were disturbed by Covid-19 so we took a kind of ‘wait and see’ strategy. We said this is now time to come back.”
He said they look forward to another exciting Airtel Top 8 Cup after a successful first three years.
On his part, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu applauded Airtel Malawi plc for renewing the contract to sponsor the competition.
He said: “Airtel has offered the football fraternity another reason to smile. The news you have shared is too sweet to the ear.
“Despite Covid-19, you have managed to raise the sponsorship. To set aside K234 million in this time of Covid-19 is not a small feat.”
Nyamilandu said the return of the Airtel Top 8 has proved wrong some people, who thought the cup had died.
“Some doubting Thomases thought you were not coming back. But we never doubted you,” he said.
Besides the increased prize money, each of the eight participating teams will also get a K1 million starter pack.
The top goal scorer and player of the tournament will each get K500 000 while man-of-the match will be K50 000 richer.
Nyamilandu said the Airtel Top 8 will help Malawi national team players prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to next January.
He said: “Airtel’s return to sponsor the Airtel Top 8 could not have come at a better time than now when Malawi has qualified to take part in the Afcon to held in Cameroon. The cup will help our players to remain active and focused as we prepare for the Afcon finals.”
Silver Strikers were the inaugural Airtel Top 8 champions in 2017 while Blue Eagles won the cup in 2018 before Silver reclaimed it in 2019.