After experiencing funding challenges, vandalism and a couple of launch postponements, the K52 billion magnificent Bingu National Stadium (BNS) is today set to be officially opened by President Peter Mutharika.
Funded by the Chinese government, the facility was completed in late 2015 but the launch delayed as government admittedly lacked funding to install the sewer system and other facilities which were not part of the Chinese package.
The facility that sits imposingly in Area 48 in Lilongwe is one of its kind in Malawi. It has, among others, a synthetic running track, 800 toilets, bucket seats in nearly all the galleries, the natural turf is thick and well tended and a number of offices and rooms for shops.
The 40 000-seater stadium will now be the home of the Malawi national team as Confederation of African Football (CAF) and Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa) recently declared the dilapidated Kamuzu Stadium hazardous to lives.
The two bodies ordered the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) to reduce capacity from 35 000 to around 20 000. The reduction was a blow to the local soccer clubs which heavily rely on gate collections.
“The new stadium will help us to improve our revenue collection considering that it has the capacity to take 40 000 spectators,” said FAM competitions and public relations manager Gomezgani Zakazaka.
Looking ahead to the launch, Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Henry Mussa anticipated a colourful event.
“There will be traditional dances from China and Malawi. It will be a historic moment and we hope that people will turn out in large numbers,” he said.
He hailed the facility as a catalyst for sports development as it has modern facilities: “Apart from football other sports like athletics will benefit a lot from the facility.”
The gates are expected to open around 6 am, according to Mussa who also said that for people to gain access into the stadium they will need to have a ticket that will be distributed freely.
The climax of the launch will be an international friendly football match between Malawi national team and Guangzhou R&F Football Club from China.
Speaking ahead of the match, Flames caretaker coach Gerald Phiri said he is treating the match with seriousness.
“There is no friendly match in football. Every match is a serious one and that is how we are treating this one. We want to win in order to please the fans that will come to watch us,” he said.
Guangzhou R&F Serbian coach Dragan Stojikovic assured Malawians that they will watch an exciting pass-and-move type of football from his team.
“We are taking this match seriously because it is part of our preparations for next season. We like to dominate by playing short passes, we are more technical in our approach.
“But the priority is that this match will strengthen the relationship between the two countries,” he said.
The stadium has been prone to vandalism with water taps previously stolen. However, government has said it will tighten security.n