Surestream gap remains empty

It is now a closed chapter. Once a beacon of hope for ailing Malawi football, Surestream Football

Academy closed shop in 2016 after a successful four-year period of existence.

What can surely take the country decades to achieve, Surestream needed four years only to accomplish after unearthing phenomenal talent such as Mike Mkwate, Dennis Chembezi, Peter Msowoya, Levison Maganizo, Mark Fodya, Patrick Phiri and Brighton Munthali.

Surestream’s closure ended a dream for the country’s only organised and systematic football education programme. The closure happened when the country seemed to have made a giant step in developing players through proper channels.

Two years down the line, the country’s football landscape is back to square one as there is no good Samaritan in sight to sustain such an initiative.

Simply put, for the past two years, the supply of talent to the Super League has ground to a halt, as players continue breaking into top teams by sheer luck.

Patrick Kulemeka, who worked as an operations manager at the academy, blamed it on lack of long-term football development programmes in the country.

“After the closure of the programme, there could have been a parallel academy running as a matter of sustainability. This was one of the best ways that could have been used to develop a football generation such that by at least 2026, we could be talking of different issues,” Kulemeka said.

On a positive note, he said it was pleasing that most graduates from the academy have not disappointed.

“Most of the players have made it into the national team. And those that were in the under-10 programme are progressing to the Fifa programme,” Kulemeka said.

Kulemeka, who is also a board member of Play Soccer Malawi, further said they have inherited Surestream’s blueprint as they want to start drilling under-12 players.

However, the project is subject to Football Association of Malawi’s approval. Former Flames defender,

Clement Kafwafwa, echoed Kulemeka’s sentiments, saying lack of visionary football leadership is costing the country big time.

“Surestream was going into rural areas to scout for talent. If we had vision, we could have copied their concept by setting up our own [academies] in all regions.

“For instance, we could have used former players by deploying them to all districts as sports officers to scout for talent. These people could be reporting to regional coaches, who in turn, could be reporting to technical director. This strategy can have worked if we were serious with football development in the country,” Kafwafwa said.

He said Super League teams invite every Jim and Jack for trials because there is nowhere to tap talent from as was the case with Surestream.

The country has seen the birth of many academies that have failed to survive as they lack financial capacity, vision and expertise. No wonder, most academies have been disappearing from the scene.

Surestream proved that it was here for serious business by investing massively in the maintenance of

MDC Stadium, which was then abandoned like an old toilet.

Surestream Petroleum renamed it Surestream Stadium, and soon it was back on its feet, hosting even high profile matches as was the case during the days of MDC United.

Surestream FC’s promotion into the Super League in the 2015 season proved that there are no shortcuts to success.

The team was a product of players that had developed their game through a strong foundation.

Little wonder, they treated fans to tiki-taka type of football.

In his farewell message, the academy’s Managing Director, Keith Robinson, called upon the country’s football authorities to safeguard the legacy they had left behind.

“Surestream invested well in excess of $250,000 in its restoration and upkeep. The company feels honoured to have been the custodians of the facility for so long.

We sincerely hope that it will be maintained in its current form to the exclusive benefit of Malawi football,” Robinson said.

Chembezi, now the Flames’ utility left-back, wished the academy had existed for five more years.

“It was more than an academy,” he said. “I joined it when I was in Form Three. They paid for my school fees at a private school and they promised to do so up to college level. It was just unfortunate that the academy closed when I had just written my Form Four examinations.

It was a double benefit for me because I came out as a skilled footballer plus with an academic paper,” Chembezi recalled.

Fam President, Walter Nyamilandu, has urged fans not to despair as the football mother body is geared to restore the lost glory.

“Plans are at an advanced stage to set up academies this year. We are starting with Blantyre then we will go to Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba.

The technical director has drawn his plans and we have funding for that. We will disclose the model during the launch,” Nyamilandu said. It remains to be seen whether Fam will this time around walk the talk as most of its promises have ended up within the walls of Mpira Village.

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