At 49, Joyce Mataka of Ndirande Township in Blantyre is disturbed and unsettled by reports that Kamuzu Stadium will be closed due to safety concerns.
For over 10 years, Mataka has been plying her seasonal small scale business at the stadium, selling players and officials food stuffs such as bananas, oranges, mangoes and groundnuts.
The worry of the mother of four and a granny of four is also a concern of football giants, Nyasa Big Bullets and their rivals, Be Forward Wanderers and the entire soccer fraternity within and around the commercial city—Blantyre.
Mataka is worried that once the stadium is closed down, her business will collapse. It is without doubt that Mataka’s livelihood relies on the facility which was constructed in 1958.
“Akufuna kutipha bwanji. Business yathu imadalira anthu womwe amabwera ku stadium kuno kudzaonera masewero. Ngakhale tsiku la training ya timu ife zathu zimayenda. Boma linakayamba kukonza bwalo la BAT kuti masewero azichitika kumeneko kenaka kuzakonzanso bwalo la Kamuzu. [Do they want us to seffer?” she said.
“Our business relies on the sales we make during match-days and training days. The government should have first renovated BAT Ground so that games should be played there and then finalise renovations at Kamuzu Stadium.”
Mataka is among several people that make a living out of the stadium.
If Mataka’s concerns are anything to go by, then Bullets and Wanderers are equally troubled as they use the venue for their home games.
Time and again, the giants claim that they spend a lot whenever they travel to play at Zomba, Balaka and Kalulu stadiums.
Whenever the government threatens to close down the stadium due to safety concerns, the two giants always connive and run an underground campaign to have the venue re-opened.
From an estimated 50,000 seating capacity, five stands were cordoned off due to cracks.
Following that, the capacity was reduced to around 22,000.
Recently the Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Henry Mussa, insisted that the stadium can still host games while waiting for a proper assessment.
However, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) during the week condemned the stadium as unfit for hosting games.
Fam General Secretary, Alfred Gunda, confirmed that a report has been submitted to all stakeholders following a recent inspection of match venues.
He said the artificial turf of the Blantyre stadium expired hence puts players at risk.
“All stakeholders, including the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) were waiting for the final report on the venues that are going to be used next season and we have submitted it to them,” Gunda said.
A source at the ministry doubted if the venue would be closed this season, citing the absence of official communication as an indicator that the venue would be available for Super League and cup games.
“If there was an official communication then Kamuzu Stadium should not have hosted those friendly games after the minister had directed for the closure of the venue. The absence of an official letter gives room to Kamuzu Stadium management to entertain events including friendly games,” the source said.
Kamuzu Stadium, manager Ambilike Mwaungulu, declined to comment about the facility.
Director of Sports in the ministry [of sports], Jameson Ndalama, could neither confirm nor deny whether an official letter directing the closure of Kamuzu Stadium had been sent.
He claimed that he was unaware that some Super League teams, including Wanderers, Silver Strikers and Mafco, had been using the facility since the minister’s earlier directive.
However, Wanderers General Secretary, Mike Butao, last week said it was a non-starter to close the stadium.
“I am not aware of the impending closure of the stadium but personally I do not believe the authorities can close the only stadium in Blantyre when there is not even a semblance of an alternative. I will not comment further about stadium because clubs have never been notified that the stadium is being closed,” he said.
Bullets General Secretary, Albert Chigoga, said the closure of stadium was a setback.
“To begin with, we don’t know whether it is official that Kamuzu Stadium is really going to be closed any soon,” Chigoga explained.
“If it happens, not only our team will be affected, but Blantyre community of football fans will be deprived of football and this will be bad. As a team, we will be traveling a lot from Blantyre therefore we will be spending more money.”
He suggested that it was possible to use the stadium in its present state by putting measures to ensure that fans do not encroach the cordoned off terraces.
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