By Gershom Ndhlovu
There is one thing that unites us a nation after we have insulted each other on the political platform as members of the MMD, PF, UPND, the FDD and other political parties, and that is football. But, unfortunately, this is one social element that our successive governments have ignored through failure to construct suitable stadia.
This failure has yet again needlessly cost us 12 lives in a stampede at Konkola stadium. And for as long as we depend on the goodwill of some foreign government that keeps on promising to construct us a national stadium, we risk more deaths from an activity that our people should enjoy regardless of their political affiliation and economic status.
For those Zambians that have travelled to neighbouring Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, they have seen what infrastructure they have in the National Stadium in Harare and the Stade de Martyr (Martyr Stadium) in Kinshasa and these two countries cannot claim to be as great footballing nations as Zambia. Even neighbouring Botswana has done very well in that area with its own National Stadium, although it is not as magnificent as the other two mentioned above.
Our Independence Stadium is such an unstable pile of concrete that it vibrates when one is walking up or along the terraces. In other words, it is another disaster waiting to happen.
Our three Presidents, the two former and the incumbent, all claim to love football. In fact, Dr Kaunda even had the national team named after him as the KKXI. Sadly, none of them has thought of bequeathing the nation with an appropriate sports edifice probably due to lack of resources, which, incidentally, are found for other more mundane and rather spurious activities like the procurement of 150 MMD vehicles a few years ago.
We are not talking about constructing a Wembley Stadium type of infrastructure or indeed Stadium Yokohama in Japan which hosted the World Cup final in 2002 which is the ultimate in stadium architecture, but something in which our boys can play international matches and above all, where the spectators are assured of 100 percent safety.
One or two foreign governments have promised to build us a stadium but it has not been forthcoming for a while, but surely the Zambian government can kick-start the project and whoever it is that wants to help us, could join in. This is definitely not a one year project which, therefore, means that resources could be budgeted towards the project over several years. For instance, the newly re-opened Wembley Stadium took over seven years to build. Ours can take even longer but at least a start will have been made.
But as it is now, with our Nkoloma, Nationalist, Matero and Woodlands stadiums, we stand to lose out in three years’ time when the World Cup goes to South Africa. I am sure the David Beckhams, if they will still be playing in 2010, would not want to play preparatory matches in such grounds.
With foresight, the Zambian government would have started making arrangements for foreign teams to camp in Zambia a few days before the World Cup so that the country could cash in on the big spending international footballers who would gather in South Africa. But here we are, still grappling with basic infrastructure not suitable even for our boys and worse still, supporters.
Maybe the question to ask is where did we go wrong as a nation for nothing ever goes right for us? Is it the charlatans that man most of our strategic institutions, or is it the culture of bootlicking that has worn us down to an extent where even simple things become a burden to cogitate about them?
Going by similar incidents in the past, none of the officials responsible for the fatal mishap will ever be brought to book for criminal negligence and manslaughter. In Zambia, issues of health and safety in industry and the public sector generally, are not taken seriously. People culpable of this heinous crime will surely not be scratched by the law in anyway. –firstname.lastname@example.org.