Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and its affiliate the National Women Football Committee (NWFC) have agreed to roll out FAM/Fifa Under-17 women football leagues in the country’s three regions this year as part of their strategy to build a strong national team by 2016.
Meanwhile, the format for national team selection has also been changed as senior players will not be picked directly from their respective clubs, but from select teams that will be competing for the crown during annual national championships.
The improvements, to be bankrolled through the $37 500 [about K13 million at current exchange rate] annual subvention Fifa gives FAM for women soccer development, are a response to NWFC’s proposal in March this year that the senior national team should have a two-year break for a rebuilding exercise before participating in international competitions.
The proposal followed the team’s failure to progress to the second round of the 2012 African Championships Qualifiers. The team lost 7-0 to Zambia in Lusaka before winning 4-2 in Blantyre in the qualifiers.
According to FAM chief executive officer SuzgoNyirenda and NWFC chairperson SeveriaChalira, they would have a final meeting on the matter later this month to see how they will roll out the initiatives.
“This is the only way we can get our national team to the World Cup. We will meet later this month to agree on actual dates and how we should start the project,” said Nyirenda on Wednesday.
He, however, said it was too early to comment on whether the latest developments mean FAM Women Football Cup, which is conducted annually in October through the Fifa funding, would be scrapped off. Nyirenda said the issue will be sorted out during the proposed meeting.
He said the new competitions will be conducted alongside other existing sponsored events such as the Arthur Peter Mutharika League and Donna’s Eggs Southern Region Women Football Tournament [for senior players] and the Matindi Academy Schools Tournament [for secondary school students].
When asked how the Fifa allocation had been used before, the FAM CEO said they utilised it for the FAM Women Football Cup alongside the FifaComm-Unity Programme and the Eleven for Health Initiative.
He said the Fifa Comm-Unity Programme sensitises parents and guardians to the importance of letting their girls participate in football through bonanzas while the Eleven for Health Initiative aims at instilling football interest in female primary school pupils [aged between six and 12 age] by introducing them to soccer contests along with their male counterparts while raising awareness of diseases such as malaria.
Chalira told Nation on Sunday during the week that they have planned to start the registration of the Under-17 teams in 15 districts across the country soon after finalising the drafting of their four-year strategic plan on July 18.
She said the leagues will start at district level in Blantyre, Balaka, Chikhwawa, Zomba and Mangochi in the South; Lilongwe, Dedza, Salima, Ntchisi and Nkhotakota in the Centre; and Mzuzu City, Nkhata Bay, Rumphi, Karonga and Chitipa in the North.
“We have proposed a K7.5 million budget for the U-17 leagues and we would like to take advantage of the school holiday that starts on July 12 to mobilise girls aged between eight and 17 for this initiative.
“We have deliberately chosen this period to help the girls to be active and avoid unwanted pregnancies that are mostly fuelled by idleness,” said the NWFC boss.
Chalira also explained that they have spotted the best senior players from the just-ended Presidential Championships to form regional select sides that will battle for the national crown in November.
“The best players from the U-17 leagues will form a junior national team while the select contests will help in identifying players for the senior national side,” she said, adding that two companies have pledged to bankroll the select events.