Up in the sky, the outlines and shapes of the moon remain visible. However, despite the night maturing into its darkest stages, Civo court is as lively as daytime with basketball games being played under floodlights.
The players, displaying their dunking and shooting skills here, are a living testimony of how some people have committed their souls to the sport. They travel to their homes late, some on foot, in a crime-infested Lilongwe City, risking all; their lives and property.
Basketball officials have also displayed unmatched dedication.
Central Zone Basketball League (Cezobal), for example, mobilised funds to install floodlights at Civo where it is constructing a new court and toilets.
But for all the zeal and labour, basketball remains poor and overwhelmingly isolated. All the leagues, which are massively helping nurture young players into future stars, run without sponsors.
“We administer our league through funds raised from team contributions. It is not enough, but then we have to keep on going,” says Hellen Chabunya, Cezobal chairperson.
The league, at the end of each season, just gives the winners and best performers trophies. There are no monetary prizes.
Annual grants from government towards basketball have also been insignificant with Basketball Association of Malawi (Basmal), getting K2 million, on average.
“Basketball has potential and to promote it we need vast resources. What we usually get from government is not enough to sustain us,” said Basmal general secretary Edgar Ng’ong’ola.
But Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS), which administers the grants, has defiantly been urging sports associations to cast their nets wide by inventing fundraising activities.
“Government can’t meet every association’s needs,” reacted the council’s executive secretary George Jana.
Some analysts point out that basketball is widely regarded as a social sport in the country, a mindset they argue puts off potential sponsors.
But Griffin Kalua, who sponsors Bravehearts, the reigning Cezobal men and ladies’ champions, observes that lack of coordination between Basmal and its affiliates has partly been instrumental in damaging the chances of attracting sponsors.
“You would realise that Basmal runs its programmes without involving its affiliates such as Cezobal, Nozobal and Sozobal. On the other end, you will also note that the affiliates work in isolation. I believe that if there was coordination, we could have been somewhere,” he said.
Kalua also urges basketball authorities to step up the marketing of the game to woo sponsors.
“There are a lot educated people in the sport who can work out marketing strategies to promote the game and change the perception that basketball is a social sport,” he proposes.
Last year, Vice-President Saulos Chilima helped to raise the profile of basketball by playing in a tournament aimed at raising funds for the construction of another court at Civo.
In his speech, Chilima, a basketball player himself, asked the corporate world to support basketball. National Bank of Malawi (NBM) heeded the call as it introduced a college basketball tournament.
On that bright Saturday afternoon when the Veep was playing, Civo Court surroundings were filled with people from near and far. Youths and the old, diplomats and footballers tried to associate with basketball.
Today, the entire demographic of the sympathisers seem to be drifting away from the sport. Like a dumped lover, basketball is lonely again.
It might be a minority sport but, in all fairness, owing to the players and its administrators commitment, basketball deserves better and more. n