ROBINSON KUNDA, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has declared National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka ready to host the Africa Youth Championship kicking off on February 26.
Minister of Works and Supply Mathew Nkhuwa and his Lusaka Province counterpart Japhen Mwakalombe toured the 50,000-capacity stadium yesterday.
In an interview after touring the facility, Nkhuwa said the stadium is in a good shape to host the continental junior championship.
Nkhuwa appealed to Zambians to take ownership of the stadium, which was built at a huge cost.
The stadium was built at a cost of US$94 million and was opened in 2014.
The minister said Government does not have enough money to maintain the facility and appealed to the management team to think outside the box by introducing fundraising activities.
And Mwakalombe said the capital city is ready to receive hundreds of people from across the continent.
He said Government ministries are working hand in hand to ensure the tournament is a success.
â€œThis stadium is unique. We must look after it jealously and if we keep it well, it can provide employment to people,â€ Mwakalombe said.
Ministry of Youth and Sport chief sports development officer Gibson Muyaule said most of the rehabilitation works have been done.
Muyaule said the ministryâ€™s plan is to ensure all the works are completed by February 17.
He said foreign teams are expected to start arriving on February 23.
Muyaule also said more security is needed at the stadium.
He said several cases of theft and vandalism have been reported at the stadium due to lack of security.
He said the management team receives funding of K25,000 per month, which is not enough.
â€œIn some cases the electricity bill goes up to K50,000 a day. If funding can be increased, it will help,â€ he said.
And Zambia Sports Fans Association patron Peter Makembo, who was found rehearsing with his members, said they will support all the eight teams.
Makembo said he has mobilised enough manpower to make the tournament interesting by supporting all the teams that will compete.
â€œNo-one should say how come they are supporting a foreign team. We want this tournament to be live and we shall support any team,â€ he said.
Zambia are in Group A with Egypt, Guinea and Mali and will be based in Lusaka while Group B, which will be stationed in Ndola, has Cameroon, Senegal, South Africa and Sudan.
The top-four finishers will qualify for the FIFA South Korea World Youth Championship billed for May this year.
ROBINSON KUNDA, Lusaka