Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE ZNA Charities Shield semi-final tie between Bulawayo giants Highlanders and FC Platinum set for Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday hangs in the balance due to incessant rains that have left the ceremonial home of football in Bulawayo waterlogged.
Chances are that the encounter could be shifted to Luveve Stadium, which has better drainage than Barbourfields, although the grass needs to be cut while tents might need to be erected at the VIP sitting area.
The poor drainage system at Barbourfields Stadium further vindicates Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane’s view, which he expressed recently that contractors hired to renovate various sports facilities ahead of the 2014 African Union Sports Council Region Five Under-20 Games did a shoddy job.
The facility was handed over to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing for the massive renovation project on September 30, 2014. Changes that should have been made included the addition of two more dressing rooms and extension of the existing ones, while the VIP section saw 120 bucket seats being erected over and above the work on the drainage system.
But a mere two years later the facility’s drainage system seems worse off with mere showers rendering the playing field unplayable. A visit by a Chronicle news crew yesterday afternoon found the whole area, even the outside grounds waterlogged. Unless the skies clear, it might not be possible to stage a high profile match at the stadium by Sunday.
The Met Department has already said rains will continue pounding the country for the next 10 days.
On Wednesday Highlanders and Bulawayo City had to play their training friendly match at the outside grounds.
However, that has not stopped the army in their preparations for the 2017 edition of the tournament that has been dominated by the Bulawayo giants since 2015.
Highlanders, the defending champions of the Army Charities Shield after beating Harare City last year, will be seeking to tighten their grip on the trophy, which they also won in 2015.
They face an equally determined FC Platinum side aiming to assert themselves as a domestic soccer powerhouse.
The other semi-final will feature Harare rivals Dynamos and Caps United, who will clash at the giant National Sports Stadium on the same day.
The winners of the two semi-final matches will meet in the final to be played on March 5 at a venue to be advised.
Fireworks are expected in Harare as DeMbare and Makepekepe rekindle their rivalry in a potentially explosive encounter at the National Sports Stadium, with both teams having had contrasting fortunes of late.
Caps United are the Premier Soccer League champions and are in the Caf Champions League tournament. Dynamos on the other hand are out to redeem themselves after having a largely forgettable 2016.
Gate charges for the semi-final matches have been pegged at $3 for the rest of the ground, $5 for VIP and $10 for the VVIP.
The Commander ZNA Charities Soccer Shield is one of the major fundraising events lined up by the army in its quest to assist the needy. Other fundraising events for this year are the Charities Ball to be held in Harare on April 7, the Bakers’ Inn and Army Charities Dinner Dance and Golf Tournament to take place in Bulawayo on September 1-2 and the Charity Horse Race to be held on October 7.
The ZNA Charities has five charitable organisations which are; Tsanga Lodge Convalescent Centre, Army Widows and Orphans Benevolent Fund, ZNA Benevolent Fund, ZNA Schools Welfare Trust Fund as well as the ZNA Patients Welfare Fund.