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Of sports sponsorship in Malawi by a tobacco company

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While still nursing the dousing of the Flames by the Cranes of Uganda, the football fraternity had a rather rude awakening when a local NGO challenged the newly acquired sponsorship by Big Bullets (BB) Football Club.

The NGO, Drug Fight Malawi is asking the country’s football governing body, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) to look for an alternative sponsor for BB because the sponsorship from Nyasa Manufacturing Company (NMC) might spoil youngsters who mostly are football fanatics.

The reasoning is that NMC sponsorship is a ploy to market its products and increase tobacco consumption which the NGO feels somehow contradicts the healthy lifestyle of sports as championed by the world football governing body, FIFA.

Drug Fight Malawi also looks at the sponsorship as being in conflict with Sustainable Development Goal Number Three which ensures healthy lives and promotes well-being for all ages.

Although FIFA does not impose sanctions on tobacco-related football sponsorship, Drug Fight Malawi has vowed to continue lobbying for a tobacco-free smoking country despite further acknowledging that tobacco is Malawi’s top forex earner.

For record purposes, NMC, a local tobacco manufacturing company, has confirmed that it will roll out a K 100m a year sponsorship to BB for five years, a life time relief to the 11 years sponsorship starved Bullets.

Though not in soccer administration, Drug Fight Malawi could in this battle be positioned where if completely ignored, the nation could regret in future, after all there is a Chichewa saying that loosely translated could be; “When a sight challenged person shouts that he will stone you, never take it easy, rather labour your feet to take you far or take cover the soonest; who knows it might be that he has stepped on a stone that would kill you as it happened to Goliath.”

Forget about Bullets having clearance from FAM and the later having gotten a nod from FIFA, hear this; the mere fact that the NGO has come in the open despite knowing pretty well that there are those buffers and that pouncing on a football sponsorship in the present Malawi is a nightmare never thought of, is something worthy banging heads together.

For those who do not know Drug Fight Malawi, it exists to work against the use of tobacco, marijuana, alcohol and drug abuse, among others, and it has ever fought “winning battles”.

Common sense might have it that Drug Fight Malawi has advanced its cause through a medium too skirmishing, who knows it is a strategy in its own se tting, otherwise they know what make is BB and would not want to do things that would easily cause breach of peace.

The comfort for peace loving Malawians could however be in the wisdom of the Club’s free talking spokesperson who has offered room for explanation if Drug Fight Malawi so wishes.

We also hear that although there is no official complaint, FAM is more than willing to explain, probably a message that just as FIFA statutes do not give it authority to intervene in tobacco-related sponsorship, so does FAM’s.

Understandably, FIFA actively discourages accepting tobacco sponsorship but it cannot impose its own judgements upon Confederations, National Associations, Leagues, Clubs or other organizers who chances one.

With that in mind, the best way out was for closed door meetings amongst various stakeholders rather than ambushing one another in bursting combat, otherwise Malawi has ever had a tobacco processing company sponsoring teams, with another sponsoring a national cup and owning a sports ground.

And in Central Malawi, there is a tournament still being sponsored by a company in the tobacco industry, does the music sound to them too? Hmmmmmmmm, afera zaena eti?

And much as Drug Fight Malawi was not in existence that time, it’s not a secret that in those days children were not doomed with the stuff or drugs, and that probably explains why there was no need to have such an NGO.

Dear reader, looking at the current market availability, consumption rate and damage of spirited beer over Malawians against ‘the sachets era’, would you have joined or applauded Drug Fight Malawi [and others players] in the fight of upholding the enforcement of the ban of spirited sachets last year? Could it be that it was a wrong fight or it’s the execution that could be at fault?

Going deeper like Men of God in issues of moral decay could be doing the nation a better service for there is more than what the ordinary eyes see in these matters, otherwise I fear for Malawi because “chati chubwi, sichinawoloke”, take cover.-PETER CHIPANGA

 

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