Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
Government, through the Sports Commission, will continue engaging relevant authorities for the upgrading of dilapidated stadiums in the country.
The senior national football team, which is scheduled to start their FIFA World Cup 2022 group qualification games in March, could be forced to host their opponents outside the country as all but Barbourfields Stadium failed to pass the CAF homologation test.
Though Barbourfields was certified fit to host international matches, there are still some areas which need attention particularly the lighting system given some games could be slated for evening kick off.
Rufaro, which is owned by the Harare City Council, as well as the giant National Sports Stadium, under the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and Housing, need serious attention for them to be allowed to host international fixtures.
And Youth, Arts, Sport and Recreation Deputy Minister Tino Machakaire yesterday said his ministry was a concerned lot.
“We are aware of the bad state of facilities which we have at the moment. We are very much concerned and as a Ministry, we have made it top priority for the year 2020 to engage relevant authorities so that the deficiencies are addressed in the quickest time possible,” said Machakaire.
“Very soon, we will be hosting other countries in the FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers. As a country, we have to be spoilt for choice in terms of which venue to use for any game.
“So we are working flat out to make sure those issues are addressed. We are consulting the relevant authorities so that we can make it possible together.”
FC Platinum’s Mandava stadium was also condemned by CAF and the Zimbabwean football champions are currently hosting opponents in their CAF Champions League group fixtures at Barbourfields.
Besides rising concerns about the national team, the situation is looking particularly dire for Harare teams ahead of the commencement of the 2020 Premiership season which is scheduled to kick off in March. Seven teams in the top-flight from the capital will have to share just two venues, Rufaro and the National Sports Stadium, that is if the former is cleared by the ZIFA First Instance Board.
The facility last season failed the initial test as the ablution facilities and terraces weren’t in good shape before it was cleared rather for convenience’s sake days before the start of the 2019 season.
Dynamos, CAPS United, Herentals, Black Rhinos, Yadah, Harare City and newly-promoted Craneborne Bullets will all be expected to use the only two available venues.
Time is already running out for the Harare City Council whose Mayor Hebert Gomba insisted late last year that Gwanzura and Dzivaresekwa stadiums were being upgraded to meet the required top-tier standards. Gomba said plans for the construction of the top of the range 45 000-seater Highglen Stadium had been shelved to allow for the refurbishment of existing venues.
Gwanzura last hosted a Premiership match three years ago and its turf now resembles a beach football pitch while part of the terraces are dilapidated with the ablution facilities in a sorry state.
“We have resolved to put the construction of the new Highglen Stadium on hold at the moment so that we concentrate on refurbishing the venues which we already have,” said Gomba.
“We will have to make sure Gwanzura Stadium is made ready for the league at least before the 2020 season commences.”
Chibuku stadium in Chitungwiza is fast becoming a ghost facility and if nothing is done to save it, it will have to be reconstructed all-over again.
Premiership teams themselves especially those in Harare are already running around considering other options which will make life easier for them.
Army side Black Rhinos are already in negotiations with the Chinhoyi Municipality with the aim of using Chinhoyi Stadium in the coming term. Rhinos’ secretary-general Edward Mutukwa yesterday told The Herald the team is already tying the loose ends with the authorities in Chinhoyi and renovation works on the venue could commence soon.
The stadium was last used by Chinhoyi Stars in the lower division.
It will not be the first time for the soldiers to abandon Harare turfs as they also once used Rimuka Stadium in Kadoma back in 2015 when they were still in the Northern Region Division One.