The first phase of the K100 million ($500 000) Luwinga Fifa Goal Project III in Mzuzu has finally been handed over to FAM.
Speaking to the press on Thursday after he received keys for the six-room office block, a boardroom and a football pitch, from contractors SITBEC Engineering and TECKNOLOGA Design, FAM first vice-president Moses Mkandawire expressed gratitude to Fifa for the facility saying the development is a dream come true for Northern Region.
Said Mkandawire: “I am very happy that after encountering some problems, the office building is now habitable as anytime from now, my president Walter Nyamilandu will come to officially open it to the public and allow FAM affiliates to occupy it.”
He said the project, whose beginning was March 22 2012, will now provide a better place for football administrators to discuss issues relating to football development.
The FAM first vice-president, however, said the contractor has been given a two-week grace period to rework on the building by applying final painting to guard the debris and replanting of grass on the football pitch following the two-month dry spell which hit the region.
He said the second phase of the project, which involves hostel building and construction of another football pitch, will begin soon after the official opening of the first phase.
â€˜Region to benefitâ€™
Speaking earlier, the Northern Region Football Committee (NRFC) general secretary Masiya Nyasulu pledged good care of the facility to benefit the region.
FAM refereesâ€™ sub committee chairperson Zuza Nyondo said the completion of the project is a relief to his body as they shamed the association by gathering at Mzuzu Health Centre every Wednesday evening.
In a related development, FAMâ€™s dream of turning Chiwembe Technical Centre into a full commercial football headquarters will be realised by mid next year following the world soccer governing body Fifaâ€™s financial pledge to help refurbish the facility to hotel standards.
The world soccer governing body wants to assist FAM to generate income using the facility, as at the moment it is in bad condition for commercial purposes.
The Goal Project I is vital towards the commercialisation drive as the facility consists of hostels, conference room and auditorium room. But they were not built in line with other goal projects in other countries, hence making them unattractive for commercial use.
While other countries use their centres for hosting national teams, visiting teams and hosting conferences, Chiwembe does not as the hostels are in bad condition.
â€˜A pity FAM is strugglingâ€™
Fifa Southern Africa development officer Ashford Mamelodi said it is a pity that FAM struggles financially when it has a facility that has potential to generate millions in a year.
“All countries in the Southern Africa, maybe except South Africa, use their technical centres as the main avenue of generating funds. They rent some spare rooms, host top conferences and even their national teams camp there.
“In Malawi, the senior national team camps in hotels which is expensive. The facility has to be improved to hotel standards in order to change the current setup . The rooms are so small and 75 percent of them are not self-contained.
“Fifaâ€™s plan was that they should be proper beds, all rooms self-contained with TVs and fridges. The problem was that during the initial Goal Project, we were giving the funds straight to associations to handle the projects. And the previous leadership of FAM (between 2002 and 2004) might have diverted the funds for other functions.
“That is why now we pay the money directly to the contractors. So, we have asked FAM to develop a business plan on how to make the facility commercially viable as it has big potential to raise millions for the association,” said Mamelodi.
He also clarified that Fifa does not bar associations from using the facilities for commercial use as speculated, saying they rather encourage them to use the facilities as one way of generating income.
FAM general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda said the business plan has already been designed and has been sent to Fifa for their perusal.
“We have to admit that as an association, we have not done a good job in marketing the place. But with Fifa guidance and support, we are now in the process of turning Chiwembe into a big commercial centre with the plan we have.
“The second project has a kitchen which is now fully fledged. The gym equipment will be fitted by November and we are also planning to open a top-class bar. We also have a shop where we sell merchandise such as replica jerseys.
“Fifa will also lay an artificial turf at Chiwembe in December meaning that next season, Chiwembe will be able to host Super League games and that will also help us raise funds,” said Nyirenda.