Flames coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) says he sees no sense in Football Association of Malawi (FAM) resorting to artificial turfs when the country’s golf clubs can manage vast natural grass courses.
The Belgian coach was commenting on whether artificial turfs were a solution to Malawi’s bumpy playing fields which he has lamented that they are not conducive for his passing style of football.
“I would not recommend the senior national team playing on artificial surface. For the developmental teams, yes they can use artificial turf. But definitely not the senior team. It is bad for them to play on artificial surface. Football is not meant to be played on artificial surface,” said the coach.RVG implored FAM and government to ensure that grass surfaces are maintained.
When it was put to him that the main challenge to natural grass is lack of funds for maintaining the grass surface, RVG shook his head in disbelief.
He said: “I have been to golf clubs around the country. How is it possible that they have natural grass courses which are much bigger than football fields? How do they manage to maintain them? If they do, then I believe football fields can also be maintained. I hope FAM and government find means of ensuring we have natural grass fields.”
The coach’s sentiments come after the closure of Kamuzu Stadium, due to among several reasons, the bad shape of the artificial turf installed by Fifa under Win in Africa With Africa over eight years ago.
The artificial surface is in bad shape resulting in numerous injuries to players. The artificial grass is worn out to the extent of exposing rubber granules placed to cushion them.
The Flames have since relocated to the newly-built Bingu National Stadium which has imported natural grass but ironically, FAM is planning to have more artificial turfs.
This comes after FAM and the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (RMFF) entered into a partnership that will see the latter installing artificial turfs at Luwinga Technical Centre in Mzuzu and the yet-to-be-constructed Lilongwe Technical Centre among other developments.
Already, FAM also has an artificial turf at Mpira Stadium in Chiwembe, Blantyre.
Soccer analyst George Kaudza Masina said much as the country would love to have artificial turfs at MDC and Luwinga, he does not believe FAM has the capacity to take care of them.
“The failure to look after the turf at the Kamuzu Stadium is enough proof that FAM will not be able to maintain more turfs. It is better to just think of planting natural grass,” he said.
But FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda said the turfs would be taken care of since they will be at facilities owned by FAM.
He said: “Despite the turf at the Kamuzu Stadium being donated by the world soccer governing body Fifa, we had no control over it because it was installed on a government facility. The two turfs that are coming from Morocco will have our full control and it will be our responsibility to ensure their life span is not compromised by shoddy maintenance works. If you have noted, the turf at our Chiwembe facility is well looked after.”
He added that Fifa has stopped providing support to football projects done on land that is not owned by the concerned football associations after noting that such bodies have no say over developments on such facilities.
According to www.fieldturf.com, an artificial turf requires at least $5 000 (about K4 million at current rate) for maintenance annually. This means that FAM will be obliged to find $20 000 (about K16 million) per year to maintain four synthetic turfs.
When asked where funding for the maintenance of the turfs would come from considering that their partnership with Morocco does not include such an arrangement, Gunda said they have plans to make the money available.
“Maintenance is all about planning; when one builds a house then you know what is required for maintenance and you do the needful to make available resources for that. It will be our responsibility to look after the turfs and we are making arrangements for that,” he said.