Friends with benefits: Morocco earmarks $5m for Malawi football projects

By Mark Baber

June 22 – A newly formed partnership between Malawi and Morocco will see the Moroccan government inject $5 million into Football Association of Malawi (FAM) infrastructure projects via the Federation of Royal Moroccan Football (FRMF).

The partnership is a ground-breaking one for African football where federations more generally rely on outside money – usually from FIFA grants – for infrastructure support. A structure that is open to abuse and manipulation, and often compromises African federations within the grace and favour politics of FIFA.

The deal was announced at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe on Tuesday with director of football at the Moroccan FA, Hadji Mouad, saying the partnership was initiated by the Moroccan King Mohammed VI and Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika.

“This project is a result of talks between leaders of the two countries. We are happy to be part of this three-year partnership which could be extended subject to review,” Mouad added.

Putting the project into the narrative of pan-African cooperation, Mouad said: “We do not have to depend on Europe to develop our football. As Africa, we have the capacity we need to enter into partnerships and help each other.”

The deal comes just four months after Morocco rejoined the African Union and as the North African country seeks to strengthen its ‘soft’ power in a region traditionally dominated by South Africa and friendly to the aspirations of the Western Sahara for independence.

According to Mouad, the K3.6 billion investment will be used to construct a technical development centre in Lilongwe complete with offices, 50 rooms, fitness centre, office block, restaurant and an artificial pitch.

The second phase of the project will see the fitting of an artificial turf at Luwinga Technical centre in Mzuzu and a natural turf at MDC Stadium in Blantyre.

The Moroccan FA has also offered to host all the national football teams, including women and beach soccer, as part of the agreement.

“The partnership will also see the two countries share capacity building expertise in the areas of refereeing, coaching, and football medicine. There are no smaller teams in Africa any more and we believe we can learn something from Malawi,” said Mouad.

FAM vice-president James Mwenda, who was accompanied by general secretary Alfred Gunda, expressed gratitude to the Morocco FA saying: “This is the first time for an African country to give us this kind of assistance. Traditionally, we get help from Europe or Asian countries. This is a landmark and the beginning of vibrant relationship with the Moroccan FA. We also appreciate the role that the two heads of state played in this deal.”

King Mohammed of Morocco and President Mutharika are considered the two most highly educated heads of state in Africa who have a strong background in law. Football in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, appears to be an early beneficiary of their relationship.

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