For a long time, sports authorities have, without any let-up, been singing melodies, songs that are laced with power to move mountains, mend broken hearts and trigger hope among the down-trodden.
The songs’ lyrical focus has been the same, only the tunes and tones differ.
“We have plans to rehabilitate BAT ground in Blantyre and Lilongwe Community ground,” there go the song’s regular lines.
Years have come and gone but most sports facilities have remained in a state of despair. The football pitches are rough and usually dry; the terraces are worn out and torn. The list of challenges runs on.
Now the lyrics have been amended to include the Kamuzu Stadium which looks more like an abandoned army garrison that was once the centre-stage of a fierce battle during one of the ancient wars.
Government unveiled plans to ensure that the stadium is ready to host games this year but that was just another song. This and the stagnation in rehabilitation of other facilities thoroughly sum up the frustration in the sports infrastructure development.
Blantyre teams ,including Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers, are among those most affected. With the Kamuzu Stadium—the biggest facility in the city—closed, clubs were forced to use the tiny Chilomoni and Balaka stadiums.
“These stadiums are small, therefore, making it difficult for us to generate much revenue through gate collections,” Bullets general secretary Albert Chigoga observed.
Recently, President Peter Mutharika said a new Kamuzu Stadium artificial turf, a key component in its rehabilitation, will be shipped into the country next month.
The announcement has surely renewed the hopes of clubs and soccer lovers in Blantyre who this year did not watch big games, including the most famous local derby between Wanderers and Bullets.
Other dilapidated facilities that did not get the attention of authorities include the Blantyre Youth Centre (BYC) netball court.
The year saw the official opening of the Bingu National Stadium, an imposing infrastructure in Lilongwe. It has served the populace well hosting international and key club matches.
But it has suffered its own share of pain too. Vandals frequented it and Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi disconnected it for long spells over unpaid bills.
According to the Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kasaila, Treasury has not been giving the stadium enough funds for operations and water and electricity bills which, on average, hit around K8 million per month.
The minister said negotiations are underway with the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to allow the stadium management to be keeping part of the revenue it generates.
“The funds which the stadium generates go straight into government purse. Allowing management to keep some money would help it to meet some of its running costs and bills,” he said.