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The reality of Malawi football pitches

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The 2016 TNM Super League season ended on December 31, 2016 and is expected to resume for the 2017/18 season in April with an assurance from TNM that sponsorship will continue for the next ten years.

Besides the league contest, the season had several competitions like three other national cup competitions.

These were the Presidential Cup, won by Nyasa Big Bullets and Carlsberg and FISD Challenge cups won by Be Forward Wanderers.

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The competitions had their own high and low moments that included drama.

One memorable moment was during the regional Presidential Cup playoffs at Mzuzu Stadium in May when Chitipa-based Masendesende FC lost 14-0 to Moyale Barracks.

One Masendesende official is on record to have attributed the loss to the players’ stage fright as they were playing at a stadium for the first time in their lives.

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“We have never played in a stadium before. My players were excited to play on such a nice pitch,” said the team’s coach during post-match interviews.

The sentiments clearly indicate that football teams from rural areas play on sub-standard pitches.

It is now off season break and this is a perfect opportunity for players to recharge ahead of the new season.

For teams, it is time to re-assess their performance for the 2016 season and decide whether they need to beef up their squads with new talent.

It is also time for various stakeholders in the game to analyse their contribution to the season and plan on how to make improvements in the new season.

Such stakeholders include ground owners like the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development and district councils.

The ministry needs to make good of the pledge President Peter Mutharika made during the official opening of the Masauko Chipembere Highway in Limbe, that Blantyre will have a new stadium.

Mutharika said the new stadium will replace the dilapidated Kamuzu Stadium, which was condemned by world soccer governing body, Fifa, more than a decade ago.

But if teams will still use the stadium in the new season as Malawians await the fruition of Mutharika’s promise to the people of the country’s oldest city, government must continue to renovate the stadium.

The stadium’s Manager, Ambilike Mwaungulu, says renovation of the soccer mecca is already underway.

“These are minor maintenance works that we conduct every year to ensure we keep the stadium in shape. We will start with the toilets where we want to replace some items that were broken or stolen by the spectators,” Mwaungulu said.

He said the works will then cover the wire fence to ensure safety of players and technical officials.

“But our long term plan is to have the artificial turf replaced. On that one, government will guide us,” Mwaungulu said.

He added that workers at the stadium are also slashing grass around and within the stadium.

Surestream Stadium and Zomba Community Centre Ground seem to have maintained their shape because they did not host many games in the season as compared to Kamuzu, Civo and Mzuzu stadiums.

In Mzuzu, the number of teams to use Mzuzu Stadium has gone down to two as Chitipa United intend to use Karonga Stadium as their home ground.

However, Mzuzu City Council (MCC) will be forced to raise resources for the continuation of maintenance works that started last year.

MCC Public Relations Officer, Karen Msiska, says the council requires about K10 million to complete the works.

Msiska said there is need for a wire mesh to demarcate the supporters’ terraces from the pitch to ensure safety for players and officials.

“We have observed that the stadium fence is vandalised every year. So considering that we are spending a lot of money to maintain it, we will replace it with a mesh that is stronger than the one we had before,” Msiska said.

He however stated that the maintenance will depend on the availability of money since MCC is financially challenged.

“We may opt to do it in phases to suit our situation. But if the money can be sourced between now and April, then no doubt, come next football season, everything will be in place,” Msiska was quoted in The Daily Times paper recently.

Civo Stadium will likely be a good venue for games as maintenance works were carried out ahead of the TNM Super League Select and Kamuzu Barracks match a week ago.

Teams travelling to Dwangwa have no hustles playing at Chitowe Ground as Illovo Sugar Company takes care of the facility which is under its custody.

The case of Masendesende FC sends a message to their seniors Chitipa United to prepare for playing on both good and bad pitches as they march into the TNM Super League.

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