Dowa — Government has hailed Mpico for its commitment to developing netball from the grassroots level in the country.
Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Francis Kasaila made the remarks Sunday at Mponela in Dowa when he launched a K35 million Gateway Mall Netball Challenge sponsored by Mpico.
He said Mpico is complimenting government efforts in the development of netball in the country by sponsoring netball competitions at regional level.
"We appreciate what Mpico is doing and we encourage them to continue being a close partner in sports development in the country," Kasaila explained.
He said netball is doing well in the country noting that it needs to be supported for it to continue producing better results at regional and international competitions.
"I wish Mpico could consider increasing the sponsorship of the Netball Challenge for next year's tournament to K100 million. When I come to launch the 2019 tournament as Minister of Sports, I will be very happy because I will know that the take-home for netball players will be reasonable," Kasaila suggested.
The Minister pointed out that infrastructure development for the sports remains a big challenge saying there are a few netball courts throughout the country which is contributing to very slow development of the sport.
"We are suggesting that construction of stadiums in district headquarters should include other sporting facilities such as netball courts so that netball development should start right from the district where talent identification is crucial. We are talking with Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development through the decentralization program to see how best we can do it in the next phase of constructing the stadiums," Kasaila told the gathering.
He observed that other partners should emulate Mpico's gesture by venturing in the construction of modern netball courts in some districts of the country as one way of developing the sport.
Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Dr Jean Kalilani commended Mpico for uplifting the lives of girls and women by empowering them to participate in netball as a sport.
She said this is one way of encouraging them to participate in national development and be able to make right decisions for their lives.
"I have been encouraged by Mpico's gesture and I will be launching my netball and football bonanza in my constituency very soon so that both women and men should have something for their leisure time. My bonanza will run until June 2019," Kalilani disclosed.
Mpico Sales and Marketing Manager, Ellen Nyasulu said sponsoring of the regional netball challenge is part of their corporate investment.
She pointed out that through corporate investment in netball development the country stands a chance of promoting the sport right from the grassroots.
"We are very pleased that this year's tournament has attracted the participation of 168 teams from 10 districts from central regional of the country. This means that the tournament is getting the much needed support and we are happy to be associated with development of netball in the region," Nyasulu said.
The teams will be battling it out at district level before making it to the regional finals later in the year.
During the launch, Blue Eagles Sisters beat their City rivals, Civonets by 24 baskets to 21 while Dowa Police 12 thrashed Support Battalion by 12 baskets to two.
Gateway Mall Challenge Defending Champions are Blue Eagles Sisters.