BY STEVEN WYSON
Malawi national netball team returned with silver medals for the third successive year after a promising Africa Netball Cup campaign held at Bellville Velodrome in Cape Town, South Africa.
During the campaign which Malawi started on a disappointing note after lost to hosts and eventual champions, South Africa, 56-51, the Queens won five games to finish as runners-up.
Malawi defeated Zimbabwe 71-46, Uganda 49-45, Kenya 72- 34, Zambia 70-42 and Lesotho 89-32.
However, the win that counted the most was the one against sixth-ranked She-Cranes.
According to experts, seventh-ranked Malawi has secured enough points to leap-frog Uganda on International Netball Federation (INF) rankings.
However, local sports analyst, Kandani Ngwira, said it was time to strategise for the Queens ahead of 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games and 2023 Netball World Cup set for South Africa.
Ngwira felt it was too early to celebrate the Queens’ third successive silver medal.
“But it is not enough. Malawi previously was above South Africa on fifth which means we are still not back to full strength. We cannot attain the level of full strength with an ageing squad. We need to do something now. It’s a ticking time bomb,” Ngwira said.
Ngwira said Malawi’s squad at World Cup and Africa Championship used most of the same old faces and they suppose to bring new faces.
“It’s not wrong to have old experienced players. But it’s dangerous for the future. Malawi opponents such as Uganda and South Africa, they brought youthful players to the African tournament. Mubiri the Uganda coach said his side struggled against Malawi because it featured under 20 players so that they can gain experience. This means with time, we will not be able to beat Uganda because our players will have completely succumbed to age while our opponents will have matured,” Ngwira said.
Ngwira said Malawi’s strategy will depend on what goal the nation was chasing on short and long term basis.
“If Malawi’s target is to remain on number six and maintain the status quo, we can continue playing most of the well-known experienced players. If our aim is to rise above South Africa and break into the top four, then we must invest in young players,” he said.
Ngwira said with the 2022 Commonwealth Games and 2023 World Cup, Netball Association of Malawi (Nam) should immediately institute a provisional under 23 squad. “They should start training for the World Cup now. Every month, this squad should be involved in strength testing matches. The current squad should be disbanded. Few key players should be in reserve to beef up the under 23 squad. They should disband the current national team. Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa efforts should be to groom a new national team for the future,” he added.
Former Queens’ skipper, Emmie Waya-Chongwe, echoed similar remarks, saying some of the old faces do not deserve to be in the team.
“During the tournament we saw the contribution of all the players. Now we know that some big and old names should be dropped to pave way for youngsters that can feature for this side for many years. There are some youngsters that can turn into gold if well nurtured. This is the time we should bring them into the system so that they should be training with the current squad so they can learn some skills,” she said.
Nam President, Khungekile Matiya, said the association would discuss with Chawinga- Kaluwa on how best to prepare for those events.
“If well supported we believe the coach can take us to the top. So the onus is on the nation to support netball, the Queens and coach to deliver,” Matiya said.
Matiya said Queens’ participation at the Africa Netball Cup was encouraging as Blue Eagles Sisters player, Takondwa Lwazi, was named best centre court.
“This shows we have good players that can get us to the top,” Matiya said.