By Mabvuto Kambuwe:
Castel Malawi Thursday dropped a bomb on the country’s football fraternity by announcing the withdrawal of the Carlsberg Cup.
The news has shocked the football fraternity, which is now remaining with two national cups, namely Fisd Challenge and Airtel Top 8.
The future of the Airtel Top 8 is also yet to be known after the expiry of a three-year deal between Football Association of Malawi (Fam) and Castel.
In a statement which Times has seen, the company says the decision was arrived at due to financial constraints.
“Due to the financial constraints that the company is facing, we have decided to cancel the Carlsberg Cup sponsorship until further notice. Kindly note that 2019 has been a challenging year and this has forced the company to operate on a leaner budget.
“Therefore, the company will not be renewing the Carlsberg Cup contract with Fam this year. However, this does not mean that the company has abandoned its commitment and involvement in supporting professional football in Malawi. The company will provide further details on the way forward at a later stage,” the statement reads.
Fam President, Walter Nyamilandu, said the news was heartbreaking as it came at a time the football fraternity was eagerly waiting for the competition to kick off.
“This is a very sad day for Malawi Football. Carlsberg Cup was one of the biggest platforms for our football development. It was a rare platform that gave lower league sides a chance to compete pound-for-pound with the big boys from the Super League.
“A number of rookies from lower league teams made their breakthrough via this competition and are big-name players in top teams today. I am short of words to explain how saddened we are with this development,” he said.
Nyamilandu, however, acknowledged that, while this would affect the country’s football development agenda, Fam appreciates the reasons behind the decision.
“Since the beginning of the year, there have been stories in the media on how the company is struggling financially and how it has continuously modified most of its operations. Carlsberg has, is and will always be a great sporting brand globally and locally.
“Apart from the cup, the company was recently the only official sponsor of the Malawi national football team and financier of the prestigious Copa Coca Cola Schools developmental tournament,” he said.
Masters Security won the cup last year after beating Be Forward Wanderers 5-4 on post-match penalties at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
Masters Coach, Abasi Makawa, described the news as shocking.
“This is sad news for Malawi football. We now have few cups to compete for and there is nothing to make football exciting. We wanted to defend the Carlsberg Cup this season,” Makawa said.
The cup was a true national competition in the mould of the famous FA Cup, with upsetting results every season as minnows shocked giants.
The biggest shock was when the defunct Zomba United, then a Southern Region Football League side, defeated three elite league teams to become the first non-Super League side to reach the final which they lost 2-0 to Nyasa Big Bullets in 2014.
Last year, another non- Super League side, Hangover, floored Moyale and Blue Eagles enroute to the semifinal where they lost 3-0 to Wanderers.