My Zambian journalist friend Mutheliso Phiri had read about the Blantyre ancient ruins, we call Kamuzu Stadium, being recklessly painted as Malawi football mecca or theatre of football dreams.
So, the SuperSport correspondent from Ndola, Copperbelt region’s commercial and industrial hub, arrived last week in Blantyre with high expectations; hoping to feed his eyes fresh optical nutrition.
Phiri is a giant, so you can understand why he expected a sky-scrap stadium; majestically and defiantly towering over Blantyre City.
For this reason, after setting foot in the stadium last Friday, he thought he was lost he eventually visited my work place to verify.
“But not too long ago, Malawi had better football facilities than Zambia?” Phiri, unconvinced and irritated, reasoned with me.
I told him bluntly that the stadium was best of the worst that we have in Malawi.
Phiri rightly felt the stadium was unfit to host international games such as the CAF Youth Championship final qualifying round qualifier between the Junior Flames and the Junior Chipolopolo.
But why are our sports facilities so bad and so few? In Africa, governments play a pivotal role in ensuring better sports facilities.
I ‘know’ that the Chinese government-sponsored stadium being built in Lilongwe was offered long time ago, but Malawi government had other development agendas.
The Chinese went on to construct such facilities in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.
Malawi Government did not see the urgent need for such a stadium, but somehow expects improved sports standards.
To set the record straight, the Malawi Government renders support to sports, but it is as short-term as it is short-sighted and more about political correctness; being seen to care about sports.
Since the early 1990s, sport has never been on government’s main agenda.
Sponsoring tournaments and national teams when physical education subject is not on school syllabus proves my point. Delinking sports from Education Ministry and constructing schools without sports facilities further justifies my point.
Constructing and upgrading sports facilities, enticing the private sector with policy incentives such as tax holiday and ensuring that children get involved in sports are the basics of development of sports. Not the other way round. n