Thyolo District Football Association (TDFA) has said the continued Thyolo Stadium project delay is contributing to the “slow death” of sporting activities in the district.
In an interview on Wednesday, TDFA general secretary George Morris said since the community ground was demolished four years ago to pave the way for the multi-billion kwacha stadium, the number of football teams around the area has gone down from 15 to seven while netball and basketball teams are almost non-existent.
He said existing football clubs Thyolo Police Eagles, Mombo, Magombo, Thyolo Medicals, Thyolo United, Kabanza and Zotheka struggle to find venues for their matches while most primary and secondary school teams were forced to halt their sporting activities.
Said Morris: “It was our expectation that after the community ground was taken down, it could only take slightly over a year for the construction of the stadium to be completed but five years later, we are still waiting.
He said as a result, the youth are slowly losing interest in sporting activities due to the lack of a convenient facility.
“Most of the promising talents have now become drunkards and it will be hard to rekindle the sporting spirit in them. Those that are determined to play football, walk for at least two kilometres to find alternative pitches, which are mostly sub-standard, and that is demotivating,” lamented Morris.
The construction of the 20 000-capacity Thyolo Stadium started in August 2017 and it missed the initial completion deadline of June 2019.
However, Nation on Sunday’s visit to the site on Tuesday revealed that the facility is at around 50 percent completion with open stands partially done, VIP stands at foundation stage, natural grass pitch done and a perimeter fence almost done. An ablution block is not yet done.
Thyolo district commissioner (DC) Douglas Moffat assured that the stadium will be ready by March 31 2022 and will not miss the deadline again.
“We are aware that many people are eagerly waiting for the completion of this stadium as it will not only promote sporting activities but also promote auxiliary businesses around and help the council to generate revenue,” he said.
After visiting Thyolo and Zomba stadia sites on Tuesday, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Principal Secretary Charles Kalemba also assured speedy progress of the projects. He ordered the district councils and other stakeholders to meet and track progress of the projects on a monthly basis.
The DC said there were a number of factors, including the change of design due to land limitations and wet weather conditions that delayed the Thyolo Stadium project, but everything has been sorted out.
He added that such developments have swelled the budget from K2.1 billion to around K4 billion.
Said Moffat: “Initially, it was planned that the stadium should have elevated stands like those at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre but that was changed to base terraces due to land limitation. At the site, there were also 10 semi-detached Malawi Prisons staff houses that had to be demolished.
“Apart from that, after the recent tripartite elections, there were certain issues the new government had to understand before letting the project continue. We are happy that the government is providing funding and has paid all the arrears it had with the contractors.”
The construction of Zomba, Ntcheu, Mzimba and Rumphi stadia have also been missing deadlines due to similar challenges but the Local Government Ministry’s spokesperson Anjoya Mwanza yesterday said everything is now on track.
She said progress for Ntcheu Stadium, which missed completion deadline twice, is at about 90 percent while Zomba and Mzimba are at 55 and 65 percent completion, respectively.
“All things being equal, Ntcheu will be substantially completed by end December this year while Mzimba will be ready by end March 2022. By June 2022, Zomba Stadium is as well expected to be complete,” she said.
Completion of Rumphi Stadium is about 75 percent with stands partially done. It is expected to be complete by December this year.
Mwanza admitted that delays in stadia construction have incurred additional costs.
“Yes, any delay in construction has a corresponding cost. Time and cost over-runs are there. Currently, we have decided to work within the limited resource envelope and try not to be over-ambitious,” she said.