We are delighted to introduce Alex Scott, an exiled Mag over in Malawi (originally from Gossie) who will be posting these Blogs throughout the coming season and giving us an insight into African football as well as his perspective on what is going down at the House of Pain on Barrack Road. Jump in …
Sewera Mpira Afrika! (Play Football Africa)
I’m Alex, and I will be giving you my take on all things NUFC while providing you with news on football in Africa, and also African life. I’m from Gosforth originally, and lived in Newcastle for most of my life. I had a season ticket for a long time, but due to work and actually playing football it became a bit expensive to keep giving to friends!
I’m now based in Malawi, known as ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’. We are situated between Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania – it is a beautiful place, if you ever get the chance to visit I highly recommend it.
I did lower level scouting back in the UK about 4/5 years ago but had to stop as it didn’t pay well enough to not work. I mainly spent my time watching the academy teams and reserves of the North East’s league clubs, from NUFC down the leagues to Darlo. I worked for a group called the Scouting Network, which was essentially an outsourced scouting team for any club that wanted our services.
Now, I work with a boy’s academy, run on a non-profit basis, and we have links with FAM (FA of Malawi) and are attempting to link with South African clubs. We will be starting a girl’s academy soon as well, as we have found some very talented female footballers in the country. In between my work with the academy I work for an agriculture and export operation which pays my bills.
I have recently been asked to appear on a Malawian radio show which will be previewing the English Premier League season and for my insight from a foreign perspective as to why the Malawian league has major problems.
So, it is the quiet time back in Newcastle, too quiet so far as far as I am concerned, hopefully once Joe gets back from sunning himself, let’s face it he has earned a holiday, things will pick up pace. So I thought I’d start off by giving a snippet of life as a Newcastle fan over here, and a taster of Malawian football and life.
I am the only actual Newcastle fan here, there is a gent from Hexham, but he isn’t in to football. None of the locals have any real interest in Newcastle, and are shocked that I do most of the time. I remember last season, sat in a bar full of locals watching the game away at Arsenal, I was in between 2 Arsenal fans at the bar, they asked me who I supported, I said Newcastle. Their response was “Ahh, okay, so you must be a Manchester or Chelsea fan to want Newcastle to win today”. It took the best part of 10 minutes to make them realise I actually support Newcastle, and didn’t just want them to win because I don’t like Arsenal. You find that a lot out here, people support the successful teams in all the European leagues and Arsenal. What has surprised me is that most seem to stick with their decision once they have picked a trophy winning team. I expected more chopping and changing. I’m busy working on converting people, although last season didn’t help! Even the Mrs, who is Caribbean, prefers Man City. She has got a soft spot for Santon though and I did get her to wear a Newcastle top on Derby day.
People love there football out here, and you can go to most areas and you will see small groups of kids playing football barefoot with whatever they can pass off as a ball – the most popular being the balls made of plastic bags, or ‘Jumbo’s’. You will find these in almost every village you go to, as well as makeshift goalposts. I always love going to the villages, as the obvious enjoyment the local kids get from kicking a ball about with a Mizungu (white ghost) is just a great feeling. At the academy this has now been formalised so that they can come every afternoon to get skills coaching and play a game using proper footballs. The ages range from 5 to 18, with some of the older lot being exceptional footballers. Unfortunately for them, the academy has probably started too late to benefit them enough to leave the country and play professionally.
At the top level, Malawian football is beset by controversy and corruption, but on the pitch they have been performing quite well. Peter Wadabwa has become the first Malawian to sign for South Africa Premier Soccer League side Golden Arrows on Wednesday at an undisclosed fee, a huge step forward for the country’s top players. The national team, the Flames are within one victory of making the play offs for Brazil 2014, although it is against Nigeria, in Nigeria. The Football Association of Malawi are so keen to manage this that they have demoted the 3 men who had been in charge over the win over Namibia, and engaged the services of Belgian coach, and former Nigeria technical director Tom Santifet. In a move that has angered local people, journalists, and even some players, including captain, Joseph Kamwendo. The source of the problems for Malawians and the media is the way that the FA has treated the demoted staff. With one journalist saying they had been treated worse than garbage. Teddie Moya is just an average Malawian citizen; he was so angered by the appointment that he attempted to get an injunction to prevent the appointment. It was thrown out of Lilongwe’s Commercial Court last weekend, but he is attempting to continue the fight.
Santifet takes charge of his first game against Zimbabwe on the 13th of July, tomorrow, as I type this, in the quarter finals of the COSAFA cup. A win here could go a long way to reducing the pressure growing on him and the FA.
As for the players, it is a financial issue. Santifet is set to pocket a bonus of 3.3million Malawian Kwacha, or $10,000. The players by comparison, will receive just $85 each if they succeed in defeating Nigeria. The issue of player bonuses has been a source of contention for some time, with FAM stating that they could not afford to pay higher bonuses to players.
The financial side of Malawian football is unusual to say the least. The players in the top flight, and even there international stars earn less money than the directors of clubs, managers, coaches, and even the heads of supporters groups get paid more by the club. A baffling situation when we look at our own Premier League stars. Could you imagine Mike Ashley paying the heads of NUST more than Colo is earning per week? I will delve further into this topic through the season as it is an area which is unusual to say the least by our standards.
As for the actual football, we have recently had the Presidential Cup final, which was between the top Armed Forces team, MAFCO, and last season’s league champions Silver Strikers. The game was an incredibly drab affair, serving up a dour 0-0 full time score, the Frenchman that I went to the game with was dreading extra time at this point, but we were both saved when we discovered it would go straight to pens. We were lucky it did! An outstanding exhibition of penalty taking, which saw 19 penalties leaving the keepers helpless and 1 saved per side, before the unfortunate Bernado Namangwiyo struck his penalty straight at the keeper. A wonderful result for MAFCO, and their coach after they had lost the final on penalties back in 2011.
The league season is back in full swing here, but we have a reduced set of fixtures this weekend due to the international fixture. Blue Eagles, the Police team and current table toppers, have a home game against EPAC, and will look to stretch their unbeaten run to 5 games. MAFCO will look to kick start their season, currently sitting 3rd bottom with fixtures in the Northern Region against Moyale Barracks on the Saturday, and then bottom of the table Mzuzu on the Sunday – yes, 2 games in a weekend. So much for the tiredness of 3 games in a week!!
I hope you have enjoyed the tasters, and I look forward to bringing you more about all the topics and more over the coming months!
Follow Alex Here