This is real. The man in the picture was captured supposedly entertaining patrons at the Kamuzu Stadium on January 28 2012.
Obviously, very few among the entertained crowd realised that the entertainer was doing more harm than good to Malawi football by setting fire to the turf whose lifespan is projected to expire in 2016 with no guarantee that its sponsors, Fifa, will buy a replacement.
With this and several other hazards, it is uncertain that the Kamuzu Stadium artificial turf will run its course as it has been subjected to unpleasant conditions, including fans invading it and sometimes, a poor drainage system.
Breakdown of a small tractor that cleans the turf also poses a threat to its lifespan just like the absence of a sythetic running track, which means athletes bring onto the pitch sand, which undermines it. The pitch is also overused since it is the only one in playable state in Blantyre.
Local partners in erecting the turf were Mkaka Construction whose managing director Newton Kambala in 2008 said that sand trapped by footballersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ boots threaten the condition of the turf.
“Because the turf is abrasive, it will scratch the artificial turf. The issue is that when players are coming from the dressing room, taking corner kicks and throw-ins, their feet will pick sands from the running track onto the playing field,” Kambala noted.
On January 28 2012 activities marking the end of the TNM Super League contest between eventual winners Silver Strikers and Escom United turned ugly when a Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ fire-eater dancerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ lit some fire on the turf. Thanks to FAM technical director Jack Chamangwana who rushed to the scene from the VIP to stop the act.
“We will brush it and if it does not work out, we will patch it up. We were trained to do this. We are strict on the hosting of activities at the ground due to such incidences, unfortunately some people feel we are being too restrictive. We may end up destroying the turf,” stadium manager Charles Mhango complained over the weekend.
Government, which owns the stadium, might as well start looking for plan B or a return to the grass pitch.
Fifa media department fell short this week of making any guarantee when asked what will become of the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœgreen artificial carpetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ when it wears out.
“At this stage, we cannot speculate on potential support in the future,” said the department in a response to Weekend NationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s questionnaire over the turf which players and coaches have attributed to improved playing standards.
The lifespan of the synthetic turf is estimated at a maximum of eight years. The Kamuzu Stadium turf was erected in 2008 by American company ACT Global Sports, so it has four more years in usable state if it is given required care.
Fifa sponsored the turf to the tune of $750 000 (K98 million as of 2008, now K121 million) which over is above whole FAM annual budget. The turf came through Ã¢â‚¬ËœWin in Africa with AfricaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ project designed to leave a lasting legacy on Africa after South AfricaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hosting of the 2010 World Cup.
“A well-maintained field should have a life of at least eight years. All fields that were installed as part of the Ã¢â‚¬ËœWin in Africa with AfricaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ are guaranteed to hold eight years,” added Fifa.
“In addition, Fifa have arranged maintenance education programmes for the 52-member associations that received a football turf field under Ã¢â‚¬ËœWin in Africa with AfricaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and this has been followed up with a series of maintenance inspections on behalf of Fifa.”
Main beneficiaries of the astro-turf are FAM and its national football teams. FAM president Walter Nyamilandu admitted that Fifa made no guarantee on the turfÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s replacement.
“There is assurance for routine maintainance, but not replacement. In the event that the turf has been worn out, it means Malawi Government has to buy its replacement. It was clear to everybody involved in the negotiations before the turf was brought in that Fifa would not buy a replacement,” Nyamilandu said during the week.
The stadium owners, Ministry of Youth Development and Sports Principal Secretary Alex Mseka on Wednesday said he needed to consult relevant officers in his department on what will become of the turf upon expiry.
In implementing the turfsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ project, Fifa had noted that lack of infrastructure was one of the setbacks derailing the growth of football in Africa and most Third World countries.
The closest Fifa came to assuring of possible help to Malawi on the pitch was that “whenever it is financially possible and taking into account geographical, social and economic football potential as well as the solidarity principle.”