The Netball Association of Malawi, for good or worse, suspended Complex Tigresses from participating in competitions in 2013 and, by November 13 that year, the decision still stood.
What lessons did we learn from this issue, which came about because the association suspended one Tigresses player on suspicions that she was pregnant. The team subsequently boycotted a sponsored tournament, a decision that riled the netball association, forcing its hand into 'shaping' an animal called suspension.
While some quarters questioned the decision, it was not wrong to be on the other side of the fence. More so because the issue regarding the suspension of Tigresses players from participating in national team assignments has been overblown because, to me, the issue is straight-forward: The Netball Association of Malawi (Nam) had to set a precedent so that our beloved Queens should be more careful in future.
In other words, Nam was right to effect the ban on the affected players. Why do I say so? I have five reasons, which will form the gist of my argument.
To begin with, we all know that athletes act as role models the world over. I can give the example of soccer where, recently, one of the promising midfielders who plays for English Premier League side, Jack Wilshere of Arsenal, was caught on camera smoking. Predictably, there was a backlash, despite the athlete’s protestations that he does not speak and that it was the first time for him to speak.
Why do you think the player’s behaviour attracted criticism from people? Whatever the reason you may give, it is a fact that one of those reasons is that Wilshere plays for the England national team and, as such, he is a model to many young people who aspire to develop into formidable players in the likes of Wilshere.
The case is, therefore, not different in Malawi. All athletes, irrespective of the sporting discipline, have to lead exemplary lives so that our children may learn from them.
Secondly, I think that Nam was justified because we, as a country, needed to set a precedent on how we want our netball players to behave, especially after landing sponsorship for the first time in the country’s history. Exemplary behaviour on part of our athletes will go a long way in inspiring our children to become responsible citizens of this country.
Thirdly, I strongly feel that the netball body did the right thing because, the way I understand it, this is what the rules that guide the management of netball in the country stipulate. Of course, Nam might have overstepped its mandate by becoming both the accuser and judge, which is against the rules of natural justice.
That notwithstanding, the netball body wanted to show that it will not undermine its own rules simply because players, or officials, involved are crucial to the success of netball in the country.
The forth reason is that the decision to choose netball players lies in the hands of the national team coaches. The decision to condemn Nam could, therefore, be rushed because we do not know whether the players were in the coaches’ plans or not. Why waste time when we are not sure about the views of the coaches?
The fifth, and last reason, is that, looking at the hot tempers that flared after Nam’s decision, there was need to let the tempers cool down before the players were considered for national assignment, and this is what Nam did.
Do you think that the players would have forgotten what happened? To say the truth, the players were, most likely, psychologically affected by the decision to treat them the way they were in Lilongwe. There was, therefore, need to let them recover from the same for them to contribute positively to the national netball team cause.
Forget about the Queens’ poor performance at Fast5 World Netball Series being held in New Zealand. I am sure that the players will be drafted back into the national team, and will be a part of the team for a long time to come.
In conclusion, I see nothing wrong with Nam’s decision. The best we can do is to learn from what happened, and forge ahead. As they say, we learn as we go!