China is set to build a massive $60 million soccer stadium in Mozambique in a bid to tap into the Soccer World Cup in neighbouring South Africa. Reports say the stadium, financed by a Chinese loan, is the biggest sports construction since Mozambique’s independence from Portugal in 1975 and 16 years of ruinous civil war.
Authorities now hope to attract fellow Portuguese-speaking 2010 teams, including five-time champions Brazil, to use the stadium to train for the soccer festival, it is said.
But with kick-off in South Africa in June next year, it faces a race against time.
"That’s why we are working 24 hours a day," the state’s project director Celso Mabjaia is quoted as saying today.
The project has employed 273 Chinese and 331 Mozambicans so far, with the figures expected to reach 500 and 1 000 by the end of the project. Maputo is expected to start paying back the loan in 2017.
The final result will be a multi-facility sports park anchored by the 42 000 capacity stadium. It is one of several Chinese-backed projects worth millions of dollars in Mozambique.
Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest nations — ranking 172 out of 177 countries in the latest UN human development index — with foreign aid making up 51% of the country’s $3,2-billion budget last year.
In 2007, China’s President Hu Jintao pledged further loan assistance of $170-million for the strategically placed nation whose 2 000km coastline offers access to land-locked Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Officials there believe the football stadium will allow Mozambique to benefit from the World Cup as Maputo is just 450km from the main host city Johannesburg.