When FIH awarded Malawi the prestigious Pablo Negre Award in 2016, the Malawi Hockey Association found itself in a situation where, in theory, possibilities were boundless, but the reality was much tougher.
The award meant that Malawi would be given a Hockey Turf carpet and floodlights, which would make a huge difference to the level of training and competition possible. However, it also meant that the Association had to find the means to pay for and build the infrastructure so the use of the pitch could be maximised. As an African country with an economy largely based on agriculture and ranked among the poorest countries in the world, this was going to be a huge ask.
The fact that just three years later, the pitch is installed and ready to use is a tribute to the hard work and commitment that the Association, Polytan and Musco Lighting have poured into the project. The story is one of collaboration and determination.
In getting the pitch to a state of readiness, the Malawi Hockey Association persuaded the Malawi Sports Council to give the ground for the facility and to fund and organise the construction of the base for the pitch. Polytan ( ) were then able to supply the Hockey Turf and underlaying shockpad and Musco Lighting ( ) supplied and installed the lighting.
The driving force behind the new field is Krishna Achuthan, Vice President of the Malawi Hockey Association and someone who has dedicated a large chunk of his working life to bringing the project to fruition as he explains: “I was one of the pioneers of this project,which goes back 26 years. 18 years lobbying government for a site and eight years lobbying for a synthetic turf. It’s a great satisfaction to see this dream come true.”
The pitch, which will provide a base for the national teams as well as numerous clubs, schools and college teams, is based in Blantyre. It is the third largest city, located in the south of the country and, says Achuthan: “the heart of hockey in Malawi”.
Talking about what the new pitch will mean for the African nation, Achuthan says: “It opens a new ball game in so far as hockey is concerned. The interest will rise and we will see new players coming to play hockey.”
And never one to stand still, the Vice President adds: “We will most probably see further hockey turfs fields being built in the central and northern regions of the country.”
The Pablo Negre award recognises national associations for their dedication to promoting hockey and embracing the spirit of the sport.