Fans are set to enjoy watching football in improved stadia by the end of 2017 as seven sports facilities are under construction in some districts courtesy of Malawi Government through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
Construction is at an advanced stage in Zomba, Ntcheu, Mangochi, Monkey Bay, Nkhotakota, Rumphi and Karonga where in some of them, additional facilities catering for other sporting disciplines such as netball, basketball, volleyball and athletics have been included.
The development comes at a time when the 40 000-seater Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre was declared unfit and consequently closed for all top flight matches due to its dilapidated state and wornout turf.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) vice-president James Mwenda, in an interview on Wednesday, described the development as crucial for the uplifting of football standards in the country.
“The initiative by government is crucial, especially considering that they have targeted football infrastructure in the districts where such facilities have been lacking for a long time. This will go a long way in the development of football from grass roots levels.
“We now expect a lot of players from the districts to develop and mature earlier, thereby improving the standards of play,” he said.
Mwenda said FAM, Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS)and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development have formed a collaborative partnership where they interlink in matters to do with development of football in the country.
Currently, Blantyre-based giants Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers are benefiting from some of the finished stadia in Mulanje and Balaka, respectively.
Some football stakeholders including club officials say the development is a step in the right direction.
Already, PremierBet Wizards and Blantyre United are using Mulanje Boma Park as their home ground.
Wizards technical director Peter Mponda told Weekend Nation on Tuesday that besides his club using the facility in the absence of the Kamuzu Stadium, the team is benefiting in a number of ways..
Said Mponda: “Playing our games in Mulanje has helped us to create our fan base because in the past, not many people in Mulanje and surrounding districts knew about us. They have adopted us as their team. Financially, they are also benefiting in terms of gate-revenue.
“The new stadia are also helping to create employment for people who take care of the facilities and a lot more who are benefiting business wise. You talk of accommodation, transport, food and other sectors.”
Owners of the facilities, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development have said apart from raising funds for the councils, they are also targeting the development of rural livelihoods through the sports infrastructure.
Minister responsible Kondwani Nankhumwa said: “Apart from according the youth an opportunity to access better sports facilities, the communities around will also benefit through trade. At the same time the councils responsible, will generate enough revenue that can be invested back into other sectors of development.”
Government through the Local Development Fund (LDF) has spent billions of kwacha with support from Germany-based organisation KWF to construct modern facilities in various districts as one way of developing sports.