At last. After countless assurances, government has said the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre is now ready for use.
Football-starved Blantyre-based football fans can now breathe a sigh of relief as the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development has asked the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) to inspect the stadium following the completion of the renovations.
FAM facilities manager Casper Jangale yesterday said the association is in receipt of a letter from the ministry asking it to inspect the facility.
“We have held discussions with the GS [FAM general secretary] Alfred Gunda and the inspection should be carried out later this week.
“First, we will have to contact the ministry on which day would be ideal for the exercise and then we can take it up from there,” he said.
Jangale said should they be satisfied upon inspection, then the stadium can probably start hosting matches next week while awaiting world football governing body’s determination on whether it can also host international matches.
“As I said earlier, our assessment will be based on Fifa’s recommendations and if we are satisfied, then we will approve the hosting of local matches, if not then we will ask the ministry to work on the areas that might still need attention,” he said.
The ministry’s director of sports Jameson Ndalama yesterday said they would wait to hear from FAM.
“We will be advised by them [FAM],” he said.
Among others, Fifa recommended the erection of a players’ tunnel from the dressing rooms, renovation of toilets, dressings rooms, drainage system, and the stands.
Fifa also recommended that the stadium’s capacity should be trimmed to 14 600 from 22 000.
Numeri Lackson, a Ndirande Township resident, who is a Nyasa Big Bullets fan, expressed delight at the news.
“I have not watched my beloved team for over a year now because I cannot afford to travel outside Blantyre.
“I am excited and I cannot wait to watch some of our new players such as Patrick Phiri and Bweke [Bright Munthali],” said the refreshments’ vendor at Ginnery Corner.
A Be Forward Wanderers fan, Wilson Katengeza, said it was proving costly for him to follow his team to Balaka.
“I have to sacrifice to follow my team to Balaka and this is good news,” he said.
Bullets chief executive officer Fleetwood Haiya said the development is beneficial to them threefold.
“First, it will benefit us financially as the stadium’s capacity is big translating to a higher gate-revenue. We will also cut costs of travelling outside our base to play games elsewhere which is quite significant.
“Secondly, our Blantyre-based fans will now be able to watch their team and this will have a positive effect in terms of morale support. Our players and technical staff will also be happy to play at the stadium which they are used to other than playing ‘home away from home’. So, we are very happy,” he said.
On his part, Wanderers general secretary Mike Butao described it as a huge relief, saying: “We have incurred huge costs playing away from our base and these costs could not be recovered from match day revenue due to small capacity of other stadia.”
In January this year, Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kasaila said the renovations were estimated to cost K292 million.