THE commencement of stadia upgrades by FAZ using FIFA funding is a welcome development.
Like we have pointed out several times here, the state of stadia or simply put sports infrastructure around the country is in desperate need of a
facelift. Most, if not all of these structures, were built before or just after independence and have since seen their days; with no periodical maintenance which has resulted in total dilapidation.
Those of us who have traversed the width and breadth of this country would attest to the bad state of David Kaunda stadium in Chipata, Kasama stadium in Kasama, Kaole in Mansa, Solwezi, etc.
Even worse is the state of sports infrastructure in schools; from primary to tertiary educational institutions. Yet, when we complain about lack of sports development, lack of talent identification at
grassroot level, we tend to substitute this important component in the development trajectory of our sports men and women.
I remember growing up in Kasama and going to school, by that time there was still some discipline in schools where we used to slash football pitches and maintained them ourselves. We used to have sports
competitions called inter-schools, inter-zones, JOCV and so on, and so forth. And then champions of each zone would converge at Kasama stadium for finals, only because that time this multipurpose arena was in some playable condition.
But with the passage of time and with the introduction of toxic politics and the emergency of some cocky civic leaders who misappropriated
sports fields in some areas and turned them into residential plots and sold them off, infrastructure has suffered greatly. This is so especially in urban areas where some brave headteachers could only
managed to salvage some land and fenced it off to avoid further encroachments by those small-minded characters.
As a result of this dilapidation, it is difficult to hold attractive sports competitions, in particular localities. With the exception of the recently built Heroes stadium in Lusaka, Levy Mwanawasa in Ndola, Woodlands, Nkoloma, Sunset, Arthur Davies, Nkana, Independence stadium in Solwezi and its namesake in Choma, there is nothing much to talk about in this regard.
Look, in the very near future, every province in this country is going to have at least one team in the National Division One League; the second biggest league competition in the land and probably in the MTN Super League, going by how the league has been spread to all the 10 provinces. But which stadium is Malalo Police or Mungwi Hotspurs going
to be using if they qualify to play in the top brackets of our football competitions to guarantee a live broadcast of such a match?
It is therefore so pleasing that FAZ decided to intimate FIFA to allocate funds for development to the upgrade of stadia around the country.
Rehabilitating Kaole in Mansa means a fresh breath of life into the stadium and an attraction to young sportsmen and women to play on a good pitch. Likewise, in Kasama, Solwezi, Chipata and also Livingstone.
And I would like to take advantage of this platform to appeal to the government to quickly sort out the impasse surrounding the contractor that was previously engaged to do some works at Maramba stadium in Livingstone to pave way for upgrades through the FAZ managed FIFA-funded programme. My understanding is that by next week, contractors selected to work on the facilities will move on site and start work simultaneously. But instead of five, only four of them will have works start; and Maramba will have to wait until the issues are sorted out.
This is excellent development that will go a long way in developing football in all parts of the country. And government needs to support FAZ here because we all know that government, past and present, had no intentions of starting such a gigantic programme. But it should not end there, government must engage these so-called club owners especially on the Copperbelt like Luanshya China Mines – the so-called owners of Roan United FC to take a serious look at Kafubu stadium. That once-upon a time masterpiece is now an eyesore.
I was at Kafubu stadium last month when Roan United was hosting Mutondo Stars, you can shed tears at what has become once-upon-a time the stylish team and its infrastructure.
Likewise, Nchanga stadium, Konkola stadium and stadia owned by council teams.
That’s why I have insisted that if these new mines after ZCCM are not interested in running football teams, let them release these teams together with associated infrastructure to people with interest and capacity to run them, rather than clinging to them and taking them to their grave. And government can help out on this score.
Otherwise, kudos to FAZ and kindly ensure that no shoddy works; it must be works that will stand the test of time. Ensure transparency and accountability in the application of these funds so that the country can attract more funding to do all the 10 provincial centres. This is football development with a national character.
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