Some Central Region-based football fans have asked Football Association of Malawi (FAM) to have some Flames 2022 Qatar World Cup and 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers played at Bingu National Stadium (BNS) in Lilongwe.
However, FAM says apart from being at an advantage when playing at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre, the cost of hosting matches at Lilongwe’s BNS overstretches the Stadium needs serious facelift to host the national team.association’s budget while Civo
Out of 10 national team matches played in the past 12 months, only one was played at BNS while the rest were played in Blantyre.
Kamuzu Stadium hosted matches against Cameroon, Botswana, e-Swatini, Zambia (Under-23), Botswana Under-23, e-Swatini (Under-20), Angola (Under-20), South Africa (Under-20), Mozambique (women) and Kenya (women) while the Flames played their last Afcon qualifier against Morocco at BNS.
Following Malawi’s qualification for the World Cup group stage and upcoming African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers, the Flames have six homes games lined up and the supporters want at least half of those played in Lilongwe.
In a petition to FAM, the supporters want the association to ensure that some of the Afcon and World Cup qualifiers are played at BNS.
Reads the letter in part: “When Kamuzu Stadium was being rehabilitated, every football match was taken to BNS. This was because Kamuzu Stadium wasn’t ready to host any game. You have ignored BNS completely as if this stadium doesn’t exist. We hope you are Malawians and we are Malawians as well. Why are you doing this as if Lilongwe is in Zambia? But don’t you feel ashamed when you take the visitors such as Cameroon to that old wrecked stadium whose capacity isn’t that of international standard?”
One of the supporters who signed the petition, Haswel Chunga, said FAM’s continued neglect of BNS is a cause for concern.
“My worry is the way FAM is doing by taking Kamuzu Stadium as the lone host of all the Flames matches,” he said.
Commenting on the issue, another Lilongwe-based football fan Felix Malamula said Blantyre should not monopolise Flames matches.
He said: “Games for national football sides are not for Blantyre people only. We also want to watch the games kuno ku Lilongwe. Mwatani kodi?”
However, FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda said there are several factors, including the technical panel’s choice that the association considers when picking a venue.
“Firstly, let me says that we have three stadiums that are officially designated for the national team—Civo, Bingu and Kamuzu. But let me stress that the decision on where to host the Flames matches start with the technical panel.
“We first consult the technical panel on which venue is suitable for a match. They then give us the choice and the reasons behind that choice.
“Most of the times the choice of the coaches is based on the opponent we are playing. For example, they may pick Kamuzu Stadium because an opponent we are facing is not familiar with the artificial turf.
“They may also decide to have a game played at Bingu because the team we are playing is too familiar with artificial turf hence at an advantage,” said the GS.
Gunda said the association also considers the cost of hosting the matches at BNS.
“Just taking the secretariat to Lilongwe alone for a game costs us K5 million,” he said.
“Then there are other reasons such as the state of the venue. You will go at a venue only to find out that there is no electricity and water while the playing surface is not up to scratch.”
But soccer analyst George Chiusiwa is of the view that FAM’s reasons behind shunning BNS do outweigh the need to make the Flames a national treasure.
“There are no objective reasons whatsoever to continue sidelining Lilongwe when Malawi is hosting international games involving our national teams at all tiers,” he said.
“Lilongwe Flames fans have been starved a lot. And being the centre, this means Northern Region fans have also had a pinch of this strange, but painful decision by FAM.”