Instead of having natural grass as planned earlier, the new 40 000-seater Bingu National Stadium being constructed in Lilongwe will wear an artificial turf, Weekend Nation has established.
Sports Minister Grace Chiumia confirmed on Tuesday, saying the decision has been made after consultations with specialists which proved that the advantages of having an artificial turf outweigh the disadvantages.
She said the decision has also been made to align the new stadium with international trends.
“Artificial turf fields are much more durable than grass; and because of that, playability is much higher. By playability I mean many games can be played on the pitch without necessary ruining the surface as is the case with natural turf, which gets a patch after grass is torn.
“Most of the stadiums being constructed now across the world wear artificial turf. After through consultations that were followed by a visit by our technical people to Zambia, where they studied management of the Ndola Stadium, it was agreed to have an artificial turf rather than natural grass,” explained Chiumia.
She added: “As I am talking to you, the constructor is already in South Africa to identify a fitting turf. They have already done the testing and before the end of this month the turf will be in the country,” said Chiumia.
While expressing surprise at the development, Flames captain Joseph Kamwendo said it would be an advantage to the Flames since they are now used to playing on artificial surface.
“I thought it would have natural grass? Anyway our job is to play football regardless of the type of turf, but having said that, I think it will be an advantage to us because we are now used to playing on artificial turf,” said Kamwendo from his Lubumbashi base in DR Congo yesterday.
Artificial turf for football fields cost $315 000 [about K136 million] and the lifespan is 20 years according to Chiumia, but was quick to say that the arrangement is part of the grant by Chinese government.
“This is much cheaper compared to the average cost of a Fifa one-star soccer pitch which costs $700 000 [about K220.5 million],” said Chiumia.
According www.smartconnetion.com, a Fifa accredited expert in synthetic turf, there is a limit to the number of hours a natural turf can be used before there is a significant impact on surface condition.
A high-quality turf surface may only be able to be used for 20 hours per week before it starts to deteriorate. Synthetic surfaces can sustain significantly higher use than natural grass (40 – 60 hours per week).
On maintenance of artificial turf Smart Connection says maintaining a turf surface can be time-consuming, expensive and generally requires a qualified person. Synthetic surfaces on the other hand require significantly lower ongoing maintenance than a natural turf surface.
Principal sports officer Joseph Mazaza, who was leader of delegation that arrived on Thursday from China where he studied stadium management, said government is ready to run the modern facility.
“While in China we toured several stadiums as part of operations and management of sports venues. It was a very enriching experience and we are ready to manage the stadium once it’s completed,” said Mazaza who led a delegation of 20 government officials to China. n