Malawi: Bingu National Stadium Closed Pending Major Renovations

21 October 2021

Football Association of Malawi (FAM) announced on Wednesday that Bingu National Stadium will be closed for use to any other football activity from Thursday, October 21 for the Ministry of Youth and Sports to complete its renovations to a level where world football governing body, FIFA should approve it for Flames' future FIFA matches.

In a statement from FAM says it has been working in conjunction with Ministry of Youth and Sports on the recommendations made by Confederation of African Football (CAF) to improve the stadium standards and have invested substantial amounts of resources towards the project this far.

CAF barred FAM from hosting the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup qualifiers at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe until outstanding issues noted in previous inspections have been addressed.

CAF is on a continuous assessment of all African countries to ensure all standards are met and has barred some venues for security and safety operations.

CAF's inspection team visited Bingu Stadium in August which led to the ban and FAM was ordered to choose an alternative venue for the Flames outside Malawi.

However, the stadium was open for other international matches like CAF Champions League, Women's Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, Women's Under-20 World Cup as well local competitions.

But it has now been closed after the Malawi national women's team (the Scorchers) match on Wednesday against Zambia in the 2022 AFCON Women's qualifiers.

The stadium has been closed to enable the Ministry of Youth and Sports to complete the renovations of the facility to ensure it meets the FIFA minimum standards to host top tier international matches.

"You may recall that the Stadium has been inspected twice by CAF on behalf of FIFA in preparation for hosting of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers," says FAM in the statement.

"According to the standard regulations for FIFA sanctioned matches, Bingu National Stadium requires to improve the quality of the pitch, technical benches, furnishing of change rooms, the VIP area, devolution facilities as well as remove permanent advertising at the stadium.

"Apart from the resources put together between the Ministry, Sports Council and FAM, FISD was also engaged to assist the stadium with drilling of a bore hole and installation of a solar operated water pump to supplement water supply from Water Board ensure that there is constant supply of water for irrigation of the pitches and also to reduce water bills.

"The Ministry has further secured more resources to continue with the renovations of the facilities as recommended by the CAF inspection report", hence the need for temporary closure of the stadium pitch after the match against Zambia in the 2022 AFCON Women's qualifiers.

FAM says the standards of the FIFA World Cup games are the highest than those of CAF and all other games. However, FIFA uses CAF to inspect the stadiums on its behalf for logistical convenience.

"This created a lot of misunderstanding and the Ministry is asking FIFA to change the approach for consistence of the standards of facilities for all international matches.

"Therefore, after the Scorchers match on 20th October, 2021, the facility will not be available for use and as FAM, we will continue to work with the Ministry in offering our technical support to ensure that the works are properly done and completed and that elite football should return to the facility.

"The ministry is, therefore, assuring the general public that the renovations will be completed as soon as possible and that the Malawi national team will start playing within the country other than playing in a foreign country."

The Flames, who are out of the Qatar World Cup qualifying race after going down 1-2 to Côte d'Ivoire in Cotonou, Benin two weeks ago, have played two of their home matches in South Africa.

Though the Flames are out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying race, coach Meck Mwase says he will take the remaining two qualifiers seriously to continue to fine-tune the team ahead of the AFCON finals in January in Cameroun.

Côte d'Ivoire remain top of the group with 10 points -- one ahead of second-placed Cameroun while the Flames are third with three points and the maximum they can reach is nine points.

With one team making it to the next group stages, Malawi and Mozambique are out of contention for a place in the next round.

At the AFCON, the Flames are drawn in Group B alongside Senegal, Guinea and fellow Confederation of Southern African Football Association (COSAFA) member Zimbabwe and Mwase told after losing 1-2 to Côte d'Ivoire that the team went "down fighting" as it was a very tough match.

"I am very proud of my boys for the fighting spirit they have shown today. I hope it would have been different in the first match if we had played like today," he had told referring to the 0-1 loss of the first leg.

"They have shown great character. It is very unfortunate that we have conceded those two goals. The penalty, I am not sure if it was a really penalty, but all the same I happy with the performance of the boys.

"We are out of contention to qualify for the next round but we still have two matches which we will take seriously."

Meanwhile, the continental football governing body has also barred Zimbabwe's National Sports Stadium in Harare until outstanding issues noted in previous inspections have been addressed.

However, CAF has approved that the Warriors can host their next World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia in November as last home game at the National Stadium.

A statement from Zimbabwe FA says CAF inspected the stadium again on October 13-14 after the facility was initially banned from hosting senior men's team matches in 2020 but was provisionally cleared later in the same year.

"Since then, CAF has been using reports from inspections conducted by ZIFA to extend the temporal approval," says the report, which adds that areas that require urgent attention for the stadium to meet required standards include not having fixed seats in all sectors.

The requirements are that seats for spectators must be individual and fixed to the floor and that they must be from one another, shaped, numbered, made of unbreakable and non-flammable material and have a back rear of a minimum height of 30cm when measured from the seat.

The stadium is also supposed to be equipped with modem electronic turnstiles and automated systems at the spectator entrances.

As a security measure, the stadium must have a functional venue operating centre (VOC) with a good overview of the whole facility equipped with CCTV monitors and that it should an override capacity over public address system in case of emergency announcements

The VOC are supposed to be staffed and serve as command centre for security and safety operations.

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