Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Ulemu Msungama says the Flames can use Bingu National Stadium (BNS) for their competitive home matches following CAF’s condemnation of Kamuzu Stadium.
On Sunday, Confederation of African Football (CAF) ordered that the Flames should play their 2022 Fifa World Cup home qualifiers outside the country, saying Kamuzu Stadium is not fit to host qualifiers for the global showpiece.
But in an interview yesterday, the minister said: “I just got a heads-up that CAF has made that decision. But Bingu Stadium is now in good condition and we hope FAM [Football Association of Malawi] will propose it as an alternative.
“In fact, the authorities at CAF can come to inspect it. The ground has now been worked on and it is in playable condition.
“Of course, it was also being used as a Covid-19 treatment centre and there was a request that they should continue, but we said no.”
However, a visit by The Nation to the facility yesterday established that the pitch is still in need of urgent attention.
In an interview yesterday, BNS manager Ambirike Mwaungulu said: “It [the pitch] is not in perfect condition, it is still work in progress. But it should be ready in about two weeks.”
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu yesterday said they will be sending a team to do another inspection of the stadium to assess its preparedness to host international matches.
He said: “My honest assessment is that the stadium management doesn’t seem to be serious with putting the stadium to good use.
“As of last week, they had stopped watering the pitch despite making assurances to the minister that they were going to work on the pitch diligently.
“This doesn’t send a good signal at all. It will be a tall order to get the stadium ready for the first home qualifier in June unless significant strides are made to work on the stadium.”
The FAM president said they are also pursuing a waiver to use Kamuzu Stadium while necessary renovations are being undertaken at BNS.
CAF cited the condition of the artificial turf and lack of fixed seats as the reasons for disapproving Kamuzu Stadium.
But Nyamilandu argues that: “It does not make sense. The turf is in good playable condition and it hasn’t exceeded its shelf life. The major requirement to have fixed seats in the stands could have been looked into if government was given sufficient time.”
Football analyst Charles Nyirenda said FAM has to partly take the blame for not utilising BNS.
“Here is a facility [Kamuzu Stadium] that was condemned long time ago. We validated a facility that was not up to standard.
“Maybe we have beliefs about Kamuzu Stadium and whatever they did to the facility, can they also not do the same on Bingu Stadium?
“Government should also take the blame for not properly looking after Bingu Stadium. This is a national shame,” he said.
In its letter to FAM, CAF states that “You are kindly requested to inform CAF of the venue selected abroad for the upcoming qualifiers latest by 7th of May 2021,” reads part of the letter.
CAF further states that failure to provide the requested information, it will fix the venue in the opponent’s home stadium.
Malawi is among 22 countries whose stadiums have been condemned by CAF.