The Carlsberg Cup final and the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier played at Kamuzu Stadium this September, could be the last high-profile matches for Blantyre unless the facility wears a new face.
Once the newly-constructed Bingu National Stadium opens next month, the facility will take over hosting of such all matches, including the famous Blantyre derby which features age-old rivals—Nyasa Big Bullets and ‘Mighty’ Be Forward Wanderers— according to Football Association of Malawi (FAM).
FAM general secretary (GS) Suzgo Nyirenda said Kamuzu Stadium is not fit to host any matches in its state, but lack of alternative venues in Blantyre is the only setback.
“But once the Bingu National Stadium opens in Lilongwe, it will not be difficult to make a decision. Even right now you will note that the venue is not being used for as many matches as before. You can see that it is hosting only one match in a week. The other games are being played at MDC, Mpira House and Kalulu Stadium—that is deliberate,” he said.
The FAM GS said they were consulting Super League of Malawi (Sulom) on the final decision which will be communicated to stadium owners, Ministry of Labour, Sports, Culture and Manpower Development.
“At the end of the day we do not wish to be punishing the clubs. We would have loved to have such games, including those involving Malawi to be played at Kamuzu Stadium, but the problem is that it [Kamuzu Stadium] is not in good condition,” said Nyirenda.
However, he said if government would renovate the stadium, FAM was ready to have high-profile games played at the venue.
Nyirenda said: “Look, the stadium gets 25 percent of the gross gate collections just like the clubs. This money should be used to renovate the stadium. If this was happening, we could not have reached this extent. But for so many years now the stadium has been left to its state. Now even the turf, which we helped to install, is in bad state.
“Zimbabwe’s Rufaro Stadium had an artificial turf installed at the same time as Kamuzu Stadium’s. But theirs is still in good condition because they were maintaining it.”
Nyirenda also took a swipe at Blantyre-based football fans for helping in running down Kamuzu Stadium.
“Look at what happened on Saturday [during Carlsberg Cup final]. People destroyed the fence and now we are just waiting for Malawi National Council of Sports to assess the damage and how much we will spend to repair it. They need to take care of the facility because once it is closed, it’s them that will complain of not watching their teams play there,” he said.
Kamuzu Stadium has gone two years without renovations despite the facility being almost in ruins.
Stadium manager Ambilike Mwaungulu said the ministry is responsible for allocation of development funds used to renovate the facility.
“The gate collection share we get from matches goes straight to account number one at Capital Hill. We do not retain any funds here. We only have ORT [other recurrent transaction] funds which has nothing to do with renovations,” he said.
Minister of Labour, Sports, Culture and Manpower Development Henry Mussa and the ministry’s spokesperson Christopher Mbukwa did not respond to our questionnaire.
But in June, Mbukwa told our sister paper Nation on Sunday that the ministry plans to include Kamuzu Stadium renovations in the 2016/2017 National Budget hit a wall.
“The continued neglecting of Kamuzu Stadium is worrying us because it is long overdue,” said Mbukwa. “We tried to push for its rehabilitation proposal but we have not been successful. We hope it will be considered next year.”
This is despite President Peter Mutharika’s firm assurances on the same, in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) in Parliament in May 2015.
Later the same year, the President assured Malawians at a rally in Blantyre that his government will construct a new stadium in the commercial city and plans were underway.
Meanwhile, Super League of Malawi (Sulom) says it will wait for the mother body’s communication on the state of the Kamuzu Stadium.
“We will wait for their [FAM] proper guidance. But mostly affected will be Blantyre-based teams,” Sulom general secretary Williams Banda said.
Be Forward Wanderers vice-chairperson Gift Mkandawire called for the renovation of the facility.
“It will be a big blow for us in terms of revenue and costs. Although playing at Bingu Stadium is a good idea, but still our home ground is Blantyre where we have our supporters. Besides that, we are not sure what will be the gate collection sharing system at the new stadium. We hope it will not be different,” he said. n