MDC Stadium was one of the country’s best football venues which could have even been approved by Confederation of African Football (Caf) to host an international club championship if MDC United had wanted to if they had joined the elite African club tournaments in those days.
MDC United, the Soccer Saints, was one of the elite football teams in this country, alongside Mighty MTL Wanderers, Bata Bullets, Admarc Tigers, CCDC, Sucoma, Dwasco, Red Lions, Moneymen, Silver Strikers, Mitco and several others.
The Soccer Saints produced national team materials such as Brian Malowe Ndau, Gerald ‘Yellowman’ Phiri, Dave Banda, Chiza Nyirongo, Frank Sinalo, Lovemore Fazili, Kachibowo Malunga, John Dzimbiri, Hendrix Banda and many others.
But towards the end of the 90s, many corporate sponsors faced tough economic situations that forced them to withdraw their support to football clubs and one that was greatly affected were the Soccer Saints.
They were sponsored by the former government-owned Malawi Development Corporation (MDC), which pulled out its sponsorship as the company was being liquidated. MDC played a huge part in Malawi football by building the stadium for the Soccer Saints in Chilomoni and the facility was handed over to Fam by the government.
For a long time, MDC Stadium was grossly neglected in terms on maintenance. The windows of the club house and dressing rooms were vandalised, the supporters toilets were in sorry state, the pitch itself became a desert, one perimeter fence fell due to rains and strong winds that when Surestream Petroleum offered to have the facility leased out to them to be converted into a football academy, Fam gladly accepted.
It was huge relief to Fam because the facility needed a huge financial investment for it to get back to its former glory and Surestream Petroleum promised to empower the facility to nurture young talent.
Today, we hear from Surestream Petroleum invested over 250,000 US dollars (close to K200 million) in its restoration and upkeep. The facility was transformed it into a state-of-the-art football stadium but solely for the development of young talent.
Much as we would have wanted the facility to host the top flight football league—the TNM Super League—we still gave in and looked forward to what new stars the academy would produce.
Very soon the academy, with former Flames captain Peter Mponda as a technical director, identified several stars who were tested against some senior teams and when the youngsters were ready, a team was formed that joined the lower league side — the Southern Region Football League.
Within two seasons in the lower league, Surestream FC got promoted from Division One to Premier Division and into the TNM Super League, where — despite failing to withstand the heat that saw them demoted — they displayed some classic football that was enjoyed by all.
Surestream can no longer sustain the academy and the facility due to understandable economic factors and they have given the stadium back to Fam to manage.
This will be a very big challenge but a very good step forward. If Fam cannot manage to run an academy, the facility can be use to host high profile matches that can generate funds to maintain it.
This is the chance where Fam can demonstrate how gate collections can be well managed in order to collect every single tambala for itself and not for officials like is the sad scenario with our football.
I am quite sure Surestream Petroleum would be very happy that they have left a legacy in Malawi through MDC Stadium and why not let rename it to Surestream Stadium to honour that legacy?
The company says they feel honoured to have been the custodians of this facility for so long and they hope it will be maintained in its current condition to the exclusive benefit of Malawi football.
Let’s maintain this facility as it has been left and if anything, let’s develop it further into a grandiose stadium through phases like what was done with Mpira Village at Chiwembe.
I doff my heart off to Surestream for transforming MDC Stadium back into a facility we can be proud of. It’s up to us as good citizens to make sure it is well looked after.