In sport, many countries worldwide pride themselves with at least one landmark facility that can be used to host top international events. From the Maracana Municipal Stadium in Brazil, to the Nest in Beijing, the Wembley Stadium in England, and Soccer City Stadium in South Africa, all these are massive landmarks. While it may seem over imaginative to compare Botswana, a Third World country to developed countries, at least one facility, comparable to some in Africa, or the region, is needed.
Neighbouring Zimbabwe has a world-class facility in the National Sports Stadium in the capital, Harare. This was the same stadium where Zimbabwe played former world champions Brazil prior to the FIFA 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa. I also travelled with Gaborone United (GU) to the same stadium in 2010 when they played Dynamos in the 2010 CAF Champions League. The stadium's modern design surely puts it among the best in the region. Just last week Zambia hosted the COSAFA Cup and despite some venues used in the tournament being sub-standard, the final was played at the magnificent Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
Upon interaction with local journalists there, I learned that the 41, 000-capacity stadium took two years, 10 months to complete. A 50, 000-capacity Heroes Stadium in the capital Lusaka is also under construction and only left with some finishing touches before it opens, ahead of schedule, I was informed. Word in the media is that Zambia is going to bid to host the 2019 AFCON.They were using the COSAFA Cup to gauge their preparedness, while they plan to host another regional competition before 2019.
It was in the spring of 2011 when I travelled to Maputo, the Mozambican capital, for the 2011 All-Africa Games.Botswana was among countries gunning for glory in the continental multi-sport event. Arriving at night in an unfamiliar environment, I was met by a picture of old shabby looking buildings, some of them looking like they would collapse at any time. I would only travel to the games venue on the following day.
After taking 30 minutes drive in a mini bus that passed through some shanty residential areas with poor drainage system, we finally reached the venue. To my surprise, there stood magnificent piece of art, the Zimpeto Stadium, or Estadio do Zimpeto, as they call it in native Portuguese.Lying on the outskirts of Maputo, the 42, 000-capacity stadium is a multi-purpose facility and can host several events simultaneously. It is fitted with modern, world-class training facilities and has several other developed grounds for other codes like cricket.
In addition, there is a mini track for athletes to warm up prior to competition. The stadium came at a cost of $57 million (about P478 million). Shabby as Maputo might have looked, I came back amazed by level of development in their sport facilities. Not only did the stadium impress me, but other facilities like tennis courts and indoor sport facilities were developed to excellent standards.Back home it is a completely different story when it comes to facilities. Our stadiums and sports complexes are way underdeveloped and behind times.
The National Stadium, which for a long time was considered the Mecca of sport, in particular soccer, is more of a pre-colonial era facility even after a five-year closure for renovations. The Lobatse and Francistown stadiums were to bring a ray of hope, but it looks like they will fail to live up to expectations. The stadiums have become more popular for their erratic constructions that lead to several delays in their openings.
Despite all the years taken to complete the stadium, they do not even come close to meeting some of the best facilities in the region. Modern facilities are fitted with modern technology. There are fully equipped media centres with wireless Internet connection, Public Address (PA) systems, good pitch conditions and even good sitting arrangement at the stands. It is still surprising at this day that not a single stadium in Botswana has an LED screen display let alone an electronic scoreboard. These might seem like little details that do not in any way affect the business of the day, but they are very important.
Stampedes like the one that nearly happened in Molepolole two years ago might have been avoided with a good PA system. Supporters outside the stadium could have been advised to use alternative entrances, and those inside notified why the game had to be delayed. With large crowds at stadiums, it usually becomes difficult for all spectators to see all the action in the field all the time. This is where the LED tv is important. Some one arriving late at the stadium will not have to ask others for the score, nor the time, but just check with the electronic scoreboard.
The 2014 Africa Youth Games that Botswana is hosting should have provided the country with an opportunity to showcase their facilities. A good facility also happens to attract good business. The absence of top class facilities might be the main reason why many countries shunned Botswana for their preparations for the 2010 World Cup preparations.