Football Association of Malawi (FAM) is strategizing on how best it can ‘adopt’ the now defunct Surestream Academy trainees.
FAM vice-president James Mwenda was on Wednesday responding to a question on whether the association has plans to take over the trainees following the closure of the academy by Surestream Petroleum Limited on Monday. The academy had 60 trainees.
“The project which Surestream started four years ago was noble and its importance cannot be overemphasized as we have already started enjoying the fruits.
“We will engage our technical director [John Kaputa], the National Youth Football Committee [NYFC] and other academies to see how best we can keep and nurture that talent. In the interim, we will let them [players] and their coaches to continue using the [Surestream] stadium,” said Mwenda who also heads FAM’s technical sub-committee.
One of the trainees, Shaun Chirwa, 12, said he was distraught with the withdrawal, since the facilities and environment at the academy encouraged him to work harder.
“Also there was a lot of competition because most of the trainees are really good,” he said.
The disbanded academy’s ex technical head Patricio Kulemeka said he is planning to inherit the Under-15 group of trainees.
“Having been with them for three years, I think it will be right and proper that I continue with them. As for other logistics such as venue, I will have to engage FAM and other stakeholders,” he said.
Flames coach Ernest Mtawali said the closure of the academy is a blow to Malawi football.
“If you look at the talent that has come through in the past few years, then one understands the implications of such a development. Big teams world over now look at players who have gone through established academies such as Surestream and though for a short spell, they need to be commended for setting up such a worthy cause.
“And it is good to hear that FAM will do something to keep that talent,” he said.
On his part, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu described it as a big blow, saying it is a lost opportunity for Malawi football in the quest to produce world-class players.
“The academy was the short-cut for us to groom players of world-class standards. We had already seen the fruits and in five to 10 years time we could have been somewhere,” he said.
The institution was established in 2012 by Surestream director Chris Pitman—who invested over $1 million (about K765 million) and it was the only viable soccer academy. Some of its graduates have already been absorbed into mainstream football.
Within the past two years, three of the academy’s products—goalkeeper Brightone Munthali, midfielders Ernest Tambe and Levison Maganizo—earned national team appearances, while others such as Isaac Mwale, Patrick Phiri, Trevor Kalema and Mark Fodya were part of the ambitious Under-20 national team which qualified for the last round of the 2015 CAF Youth Championship qualifiers.
The institution also went on to build a team comprising inaugural graduates, which two years after joining the third-tier Division One, defied the odds and earned promotion into the Super league.
In a press release issued on Monday, Surestream general manager Keith Robinson said the academy has been closed because the company is no longer the operator of the license for oil exploration in the country.