It is off-season in Malawi’s football after a long tiresome 2018 season which saw TNM Super League clubs participating in five tough competitions that were played concurrently.
The previous season started with a Charity Shield trophy on March 31 which also set the journey for the longest and elite league trophy on the land, TNM Super League, which went all the way to December.
The same month of March, another mobile company, Airtel Malawi came up with a K66 million Airtel Top 8 Cup followed by a K40 million Carlsberg Trophy in July.
As the journey in the 2018 season persisted, Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development (FISD) a local NGO, introduced FISD Cup which rolled out in September.
Just by looking at the schedule for the season, nobody can dispute the fact that fatigue takes its toll on players no wonder they are accorded a three months break to relax their muscles.
The need for the players to rest is emphasized by Civo United Football Club, Milias Jegwe Pofera.
“Off-season is meant for the players to rest so that when the new season kicks off they emerge fresh but of course just light exercises are not bad,” said Jegwe.
But it is sad to see some players defying an off-season break by taking part in social football in their respective localities.
Worse still, football pitches where these Super League players play on, are out of standard considering their rough-bumpy surfaces which risk their careers.
The country’s soccer mother body, Football Association of Malawi (FAM), through its Matching System and Club Licensing Manager, Casper Jangale, also registered disappointment over the issue.
Jangale said: “It is very sad and this just shows how amateurish we are in the way we ran our football in the country, a development which will keep our football underdeveloped for good.”
He said even some football administrators, including coaches, does encourage players to play social footballs during the off-season and to the extent of sharing a pitch.
However, Jangale expressed the need to strictly follow proper set rules and standards as the off-season was deliberately instituted to give the players opportunity to rest after a nine months long season of playing.
One of the oldest clubs in the country, which also signs contracts with a higher number of players, Nyasa Big Bullets Football Club, emphasized that it is the club’s policy not to condone their players to partake in any football game with any other club rather than Bullets, even during the off-season, unless a player is called for national duties.
The people’s team Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Fleetwood Haiya, said the repercussions come to worse when the player is injured while playing outside the club.
“It’s a very unfortunate development as you are aware the club covers these players under insurance and medical cover but all these benefits are valid only when they acquire an injury while plying their football at the club,” emphasized Haiya.
He urged Bullets supporters to report any player involved in such acts so that the matter can be taken before the disciplinary panel.
Since the matter is highly related to the player’s welfare, Football Players Association of Malawi (FPAM), an association formed with the objective of uplifting the welfare of current and former football players, reminded the players that even when they are on off-season it is not recommended for them to play for any other team without the consent from their club.
FPAM General Secretary, Ernest Mangani, said FPAM’s hands are tied to fully guide the players because most of them are not yet registered members of the association. He further called on clubs to woo their players to register with the association.
However, Mangani bemoaned the low payments that clubs are offering their players and he labelled the challenge as one of the drivers which force them to participate in social football games where they sometimes earn a little money to sustain themselves.
But are the players themselves aware of the career risks they are exposed to in line of social football duties?
Fisher Kondowe, AKA Jahman, is one of the veteran footballers in the country who is also a long serving member of Nyasa Big Bullets FC and he confirmed the growing tendency of most players who defy to rest during the season break.
Kondowe, however, pointed out ignorance on most players in understanding their contract agreement with their clubs and the little money they earn as some of the root causes.
Meanwhile according to a recently unveiled FAM calendar, journey in the 2019 season begins on March 30,2019 with FAM Charity Shield and followed by TNM super league on April 6, 2019.