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Harare Derby in doubt

Xolisani Gwesela

Xolisani Gwesela

Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE eagerly anticipated Harare Derby faces an indefinite postponement after an inspection team confirmed yesterday that Rufaro which has been touted as a possible venue for CAPS United against Dynamos showdown is not yet ready for use.

Football has been left without a home following the closure of the National Sports Stadium to make way for a church event.

After being plunged into a crisis of venues, the Premier Soccer League chiefs had hoped to move the famous Harare derby to Rufaro on Sunday.

This came after the National Sports Stadium authorities temporarily closed the giant facility to pave way for the preparations of a church gathering.

The National Stadium was booked by Nigerian Pastor Chris Oyakhilome for a special service with his Christ Embassy Ministries scheduled for Sunday.

With Rufaro and Gwanzura closed for seemingly endless refurbishments by the Harare City Council, the PSL had been forced to host the capital’s five teams at the National Sports Stadium.

The league chiefs have, however, used Morris Depot to stage two games.

But the Zimbabwe Republic Police ground is too small to host the blockbuster clash featuring Harare’s most popular teams Dynamos and CAPS United.

The non-availability of a suitable venue means the derby could be shelved for a longer period as Makepekepe are expected to embark on a marathon schedule in the CAF Champions League group stages as from next week.

A tripartite inspection team that included ZIFA’s grounds committee, PSL and Harare City Council officials toured Rufaro last Friday and concluded that the renovations could take two more weeks.

This means there is no venue for the Harare derby this week.

ZIFA Communications and Competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela, who was part of the inspecting team at Rufaro, confirmed yesterday that the ground is not ready.

“We inspected Rufaro Stadium on Friday and observed that there was work in progress on the pitch. The contractor hired by Harare City Council advised us that he needed about two weeks to attend to some areas on the pitch.

“Consequently, we will re-inspect it after two weeks and accordingly advise the Premier Soccer League if it is ready to host any PSL matches,” said Gwesela.

Harare City spokesperson Michael Chideme said work was taking shape after removing the artificial turf and replacing it with natural grass.

The artificial turf had deteriorated due to lack of maintenance rendering the pitch unplayable.

Chideme said the contractor had indicated the stadium will be ready by May 14.

PSL chief executive Kenny Ndebele yesterday said they are expecting the report by the inspection team today.

“An assessment was carried out last week by the relevant bodies and we are waiting for a report on the state of Rufaro. We may probably get the report today and that is when we will be able to know what will happen.

“If they say Rufaro is okay then we will have the match there, but in the event that it is not available we have no choice, but to postpone since we do not have any other venue in Harare capable of hosting a match of this magnitude,” said Ndebele.

The PSL’s other predicament is that CAPS United face a tight schedule in the African safari.

CAPS United who were drawn in Group B of the Champions League which features North Africa clubs Zamalek, USM Alger and Al Ahli Tripoli have a busy month.

The Premiership champions are set to travel to Egypt next week for the opening match against Zamalek.

CAPS United, who already have a game in hand in the local Premiership, will then host Algeria’s USM Alger in a mid-week clash between May 23 and May 24.

But if the worst comes to the worst, PSL could be forced to squeeze in mid-week fixtures.

That provides its challenges with Dynamos as the home team unlikely to agree to have the match which normally guarantees them huge gate revenue played during the week.

DeMbare had already turned their attention to the match and skipper Ocean Mushure hailed their win over Yadah at the weekend as the tonic they needed ahead of the grudge match against Makepekepe.

Mushure returned from injury to score the solitary goal at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday off a free-kick to give his side a morale-booster after they had lost their home match to How Mine.

“We have to look ahead of ourselves and I think this win came at the right time. We have the Harare Derby coming up next and the players and the supporters needed to have something to motivate them. Remember this is a very big game with a lot of pressure. So the pressure needs to be managed,” said Mushure.

CAPS United on the other hand had fired strong shots when they thrashed Chapungu 4-0 the day before.

Abbas Amidu scored a brace while Ronald Chitiyo and Dominic Chungwa weighed in with a goal each.

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