Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Francis Phiso on Tuesday led senior government officials and fans in welcoming the Malawi national netball team from the Netball World Cup held in Liverpool, England where they finished sixth.
The Queens arrived through Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe aboard a South African Airways plane at 12.20pm.
Phiso told the players and officials that President Peter Mutharika, government and Malawians were proud of their achievement.
He said: “The message from the President is that he is behind you always. He said he is proud of you for continuing to raise the Malawi flag higher and has promised to continue providing resources so that you can reclaim the number one position in Africa. Government will always be there for you.”
Phiso said he will soon call for a meeting with the team and officials to find lasting solutions to help them break into the top four on world rankings.
“We want you to reclaim the top position in Africa which now is held by South Africa. But to achieve that, we need to plan properly. I have called for a meeting with all stakeholders on how we can move forward,” he said.
Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) president Khungekire Matiya welcomed the minister’s invitation, saying it will provide a good platform to strategise on the future.
“Firstly, I must applaud the girls for an overall performance. They really put in great effort and we all are proud of them. But if we can support them better, the team can do much better. That’s why we welcome this call by the minister to have a stakeholders meeting,” she said.
Matiya also appealed to other stakeholders to support the Queens.
She observed that the team has great potential to attract support from the corporate world.
“The Queens are a brand and we should market this brand to the corporate world. We shouldn’t be depending on government alone,” said Matiya.
Assistant coach Whyte Mlilima also welcomed government call.
“It’s all about giving the team adequate resources for the team to train properly before a major tournament.
“The team needs friendly games against teams better than us. That’s the only way we can break into the top three or top five,” he said.
Queens captain Joana Kachilika, on the other hand, asked government to invest in netball infrastructure.
“My request is that we need to have a modern netball indoor court like we use at such big tournaments. It should be complete with accessories like a gym and other facilities,” she said.
For the first time in the history of the tournament, half of the top eight countries were from Africa.
South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe made it to the top eight at the expense of other teams.
To cap it all, the South Africa’s Spar Proteas became the first African team to make it to the semi-final and finish in the top four.
The Queens beat rivals Uganda to set up a fifth-place play-off against Jamaica which they lost to finish sixth.
South Africa lost to England in the semi-finals to finish fourth while Zimbabwe lost to Uganda to finish eighth.
With the next World Cup in 2023 set for South Africa there is hope that African teams can take over the world of netball.
Queens shooter Joyce Mvula, who plays for Manchester Thunder in England, said this is a big statement from African teams.
She said: “I think now netball is Africa is coming up, so we just want to encourage other teams in Africa to work hard. We can be there. Everything is possible.
“It is a good opportunity for us, and some players can travel to watch the World Cup, which can help a lot. Just watching can prove a lot, and that’s great for the African nations.”