Written by JOE CHIBEWA
LILONGWE--The soccer fraternity in Blantyre and surrounding districts in southern Malawi are in a state of shock after the youth and sports ministry ordered the closure of the country’s biggest and oldest sports facility, the Kamuzu Stadium, pending structural engineering inspection following reports that some stands have developed cracks thereby posing a safety risk.
As a result of the closure, a much publicised Presidential Cup final between Big Bullets FC and Moyale Barracks, which had been scheduled to take place at the stadium on Sunday, had to be shifted to Civo Stadium in Lilongwe this Saturday, September 1, a development which has disappointed hordes of soccer lovers who had whetted their appetite for the match.
That is not all—it is now doubtful if the stadium will be ready to host the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations return leg qualifier between Malawi and Ghana scheduled for October 14.
Sports, youth development and welfare principal secretary Justin Saidi told The Daily Times of Monday that an independent structural engineer would be engaged this week to make thorough assessment of the facility before a decision on whether or not the stadium should host the Ghana-Malawi game.
“Right now we cannot make an informed decision on whether the stadium can host the Ghana game. We will engage structural engineers to inspect the stadium this week [and] a decision will be made based on the report from the engineers,” Saidi told the paper.
Last year Fifa officials after inspecting the facility, recommended that it wasn't fit to host games, but the Malawi government was adamant and engaged local engineers to inspect it and, as expected, passed it as ‘perfect’.
Not satisfied, but in the spirit of the game, Fifa played ball by recommending that the stadium’s capacity be reduced from 45,000 to 32, 000.
But this recommendation has been met only during international matches as the stadium’s five open stands have been seen to be filled to over capacity during local games involving the country’s most popular side Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers.
Apart from the Kamuzu Stadium, the other alternative would be 20,000-capacity Civo Stadium, but it, too, was rubbished by Caf and Fifa as not fit to host international games.
So what next? That is the question many people are asking and it seems no one has the immediate answer.
Sports minister Enoch Chakufwa Chihana was expected to meet Pres Joyce Banda on Sunday to discuss the situation of the Kamuzu Stadium, saying government was trying its best to ensure that the stadium in rehabilitated as soon as possible so that it can host Ghana’s Black Stars in October.
Meanwhile, Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers, who use the stadium as their home ground during Super League matches, will feel the pinch most as they will play most of their remaining games outside Blantyre thereby incurring extra costs.
©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.