No retreat, no surrender.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has said it will not relent on its decision to bar Kamuzu Stadium from hosting matches unless the issues that were raised in the assessment report are addressed.
Among other reasons, the stadium was declared unfit due to its dilapidated state, poor sanitary conditions and, above all, the artificial turf which has outlived its life-span.
Blantyre-based giants Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers—who use the stadium as their home ground— on Thursday led the clamour to force FAM to rescind its decision, questioning the timing of the move.
But the association’s president Walter Nyamilandu yesterday stressed that they cannot continue to put players’ careers and fans’ lives at risk.
“We are putting players’ careers at risk due to the condition of the turf. Players continue to suffer injuries. We need to protect our players.
“The stadium is also in a dilapidated state and, therefore, a big risk to spectators. In its current state, the facility is a death trap and unless renovations are made, it will be a huge risk to continue hosting matches at the stadium. We shouldn’t play with people’s lives,” he said.
The FAM boss said while they appreciate the concerns raised by the clubs on the effects of barring the stadium from hosting matches, “the consequences of continuing to host matches at the stadium have far-reaching consequences.
“For now, we are saying let us do with the facilities that are there.”
Wanderers general secretary Mike Butao and his Bullets counterpart Albert Chigoga said they are working together as they have a common cause.
Said Butao: “We are consulting our supporters and at the same time we are working with Bullets because we feel that the only playable pitch in the South and Blantyre in particular, cannot be closed when there is no alternative.
“Replacing the artificial turf can be done after the first round. If anything, the decision to bar the stadium puts Lilongwe-based teams at an advantage.
“It is also a huge financial burden in terms of match revenue losses and extra travel and accommodation costs since we will be forced to play our matches outside Blantyre.”
On his part, Chigoga earlier this week described the development as a huge setback.
“To begin with, the timing [by FAM] is wrong because we cannot start planning to find a suitable replacement now when kickoff of the league is just around the corner.
“Second, we are constrained budget-wise and obviously the development will require us playing most of our matches outside Blantyre. So, we find this decision to be harsh and unfair,” he said.
Bullets and Wanderers supporters committees also held a joint meeting on Thursday where they resolved to give FAM three days to reconsider their decision, failing which they will march from Central Business District to FAM’s Mpira Village to present a petition.
Speaking on behalf of the two committees, Bullets supporters committee secretary Mabvuto Chibambo said: “FAM should rescind its decision until the end of the season to pave way for the games.”
Meanwhile, responding to a question on the progress of plans to demolish the ailing structure to pave the way for construction of a new one as pledged by President Peter Mutharika, the Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Henry Mussa said: “As government, we have gone flat out to mobilise resources for a state-of-the-art complex which will include a new international stadium, conference centre and other sporting facilities.
“We mean business and it will be done.”