Entertainment and Sports in Malawi
Malawi at the Olympic Games
Malawi has competed in eight Summer Olympic Games. They have never competed in the Winter Olympic Games. Malawi has also boycotted the 1976 and 1980 Summer Olympics and has returned during the 1984 Summer Olympics. Malawi has never won an Olympic medal.
List of flag bearers for Malawi at the Olympics
Malawi at the Commonwealth Games
Malawi entered the Commonwealth in 1964 and made their debut in the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland. Malawi won a boxing bronze medal on their debut in 1970 and returned to Scotland in 1986 to win two more boxing medals.
Football is the most popular sport in Malawi, and it is almost Malawi’s second religion. Football grounds are prominent features along all the country or intercity roads, and on weekends they are filled with competitive games. The English Premier League also has fanatical followers, and on most game nights the pubs are full, with lively outbursts of joy or despair whenever a team scores or misses an opportunity.
The Malawi National Football Team nicknamed “The Flames” is the national team of Malawi and is controlled by the Football Association of Malawi. The team is ranked 125 of FIFA World Ranking in October 2018.
Honours of The National Team
- COSAFA Cup Runners-up in 2002, 2003
- CECAFA Cup Winners in 1978, 1979, 1988
- All Africa Games Third Place in 1987
*COSAFA Cup is an annual tournament for 16 teams from Southern Africa organised by Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA)
*CECAFA Cup is the oldest football tournament in Africa and competed by 12 teams of Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA).
Malawi Premier Division
Malawi Premier Division, also known under the sponsored name as TNM Super League, is the top football division in Malawi. It was created in 1986. Malawi mobile telecommunications company TNM sponsors the league with K65 million annually.
The league is competed by 16 teams, and the Mighty Wanderers and the Big Bullets are the most popular clubs – they sometimes add sponsors’ names to their own names – and their rivalry is infectious. Their supporters create a carnival atmosphere and any major win is greeted with street jubilation and weeks of long soccer commentary.
Malawian women have dominated netball. A former coach, Griffin Saenda, has contributed to raising the ranking of the team phenomenally. The team is nicknamed “The Queens”. As of October 2018, the team are sixth in the INF World Rankings. Airtel Malawi is a significant financial donor of the Malawi Queens, having sponsored their trip to Auckland for the Fast5 World Series in 2014 to a sum of K6M.
Malawi at the Commonwealth Games
Malawi have finished 5th in 2010 and 2014, just missing out on the Bronze medal match. Out of the twenty-three games Malawi has played at the Commonwealth Games, they have won thirteen of them. Malawi was one of the highest scores in Glasgow 2014 scoring a total of 352 goals. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Malawi defeated the second-ranked team in the world, New Zealand, for the first time in history.
Malawi at the Netball World Cup
Malawi first played at the World Cup in 1995 in Birmingham, England where they finished in 8th out of 27 participating nations. Malawi’s highest ever World Cup finish was 5th at the 2007 World Cup in Auckland, New Zealand.
There are around a dozen 9-hole golf courses such as the Blantyre Sports Club, Limbe Country Club (also in Blantyre), the Kasasa course in Dwanga and Mbawa Country club scattered throughout Malawi. Blantyre Sports Club was formed in 1894 – with the latest of these layouts opening at Mapiri Lodge.
Lilongwe Golf Club is the country’s only 18-hole course and home to the TNM Malawi Open sponsored by Telekom Networks Malawi. It was founded in 1930 and was eventually upgraded to a full 18-hole which is par 72 course and sits on 73 hectares of land. The course’s narrow tree-lined fairways are being upgraded with a modern irrigation system to improve its year-round playability of the fairways, which can suffer in the dry season. The club offers facilities for many other sports facilities such as swimming, tennis, squash, snooker and pool as well as table tennis. There are a variety of membership options available, suitable for all lifestyle.
Mountain bike and Cycling
Malawi has become known as one of Africa’s top destinations for mountain bike tours, especially in the less populated north. The quiet roads, magnificent terrain and the opportunity to cycle in national parks add to the appeal. Visitors can bring their own bikes or several of the lakeshore lodges hire out mountain bikes, usually for about USD10 a day. There are a day or multi-day excursions or more gruelling long-distance trips.
Areas that are great for mountain biking include Nyika National Park (through Chelinda Camp), with its hilly landscape and a good network of dirt tracks, and the Viphya Plateau (through Luwawa Forest Lodge). Both offer hire bikes. The lakeshore road is also a popular highway for those preferring to stick to the flat.
Luwawa International Mountain Bike Race
Luwawa International Mountain Bike Race is run in aid of the Luwawa Environmental trust, which protects the forests surrounding the Luwawa lodge and is held in June every year. The race has been run under UCI rules since 2011 as a fully international event and celebrated its 15 years in 2018.
The tough circular route of the race follows the mountain ridges around the South Viphya Forest Reserve covering a distance of 53km and passing through some of the most beautiful and challenging mountain biking country in Malawi with stunning scenery looking out towards Lake Malawi. The event is open to all, regardless of age or ability. There is an ample supply of water stops as well as first aid facilities and logistical support from staff at the Luwawa Lodge.
Hiking, Climbing and Horse Riding
Hikers and climbers can enjoy the delights of Malawi’s deep south area of Mount Mulanje and nearby areas such as the high Zomba and Viphya plateaux with their unusual landscapes at cooler altitudes. Of course, it’s also possible to combine hiking with mountain biking or horse-riding adventures in the same area. Horse riding is also popular at Kande Beach near Chintheche.
The main areas for hiking are Nyika and Mulanje. Other areas include Zomba and various smaller peaks around Blantyre. Mulanje is Malawi’s main rock-climbing area, with some spectacular routes, although local climbers also visit smaller crags and outcrops. Rock climbing can also be arranged in Livingstonia and in the Viphya Plateau.
Malawi is a great destination for birding with more than 600 species recorded here. The best place to start is the national parks. Liwonde is an excellent spot, with particularly good birdlife along the river, and the forests in Nyika are also good. For waterbirds, Elephant Marsh in Malawi’s far south is your surest bet. Land & Lake Safaris in Lilongwe can organise birdwatching tours around the country.
Scuba diving and Snorkelling
Under the liquid surface of Lake Malawi lives a freshwater paradise of numerous fish species. The clarity of the water allows visibility at best down to 30 metres. The lake is reckoned by experts to be among the best freshwater diving areas in the world, and one of the cheapest places to learn how to dive. Places, where you can hire scuba gear and take a PADI-licensed course, include Nkhata Bay, Cape Maclear, Likoma Island and Senga Bay. The Lake Malawi National Park which is UNESCO World Heritage Site provides a safe environment for drivers. Keen divers should consider Nkhata Bay as their diving destination in Malawi. The warm waters and abundance of tropical fish species render this diving spot unforgettable. If you don’t want to dive you can still have fun with the fish. Almost all the lodges and hotels close to the lakeshore are equipped for water sports
Sailing and Kayaking & Boat trips
Kayaking and sailing on Lake Malawi are amazing opportunities to fully enjoy the lake. There are islands on Lake Malawi with camps dedicated to kayaking and operated by tour operators specialising in the sport.
For casual cruises on the lake, boat trips are the ideal way to start or end a day. Watch as the crocodiles make their way onto the banks for an afternoon sunbathe or stare into an explosion of monotone colours as the sun sets. For a more traditional experience of the lake, take a trip on the famous Ilala, the local water-bus.
You can go fishing in Lake Malawi for mpasa (also called lake salmon), Ncheni (lake tiger), sungwa (a type of perch), Kampango or vundu (both catfish). There are trout in streams on the Nyika, Zomba and Mulanje Plateaux, and tigerfish can be hooked in the Lower Shire River. Great salmon fishing can also be had at Tongole Wilderness Lodge on the Bua River in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
Other water sports
There are many other water sports including water-skiing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, surfing and just casual swimming. For a break from the adventurous water sports, you can laze on the sun-kissed shores of the lake or partake in beach sports like volleyball or football. Grab a towel and sunscreen and prepare for an afternoon of sunbathing, or be enveloped in a shaded hammock. Prepare a basket of snacks and refreshments and enjoy a picnic lunch as you watch the buzz of activity on the lake.
In post-colonial Malawi, other sports have been introduced into the schools. Volleyball and basketball have taken hold, principally through the effort of Peace Corps Volunteers from the USA in the mid-1960s. The African Bible College has further contributed to the growth of basketball, by bringing professionals from the USA to hols coaching clinics and also sending some of the best players to the USA.
Athletics and cross-country running have also been developed since Malawian independence. A pioneer in the systematic training of talented young runners is Dr Harold Salmon, a Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Malawi from 1966-1968. From the year 2000, there has been an improvement in the quality of athletes, the most notable of whom is Catherine Chikwakwa, now based in Germany. There are other runners from the University of Malawi and the Army who have shown significant progress.