Robson Sharuko in HARARE and Sikhumbuzo Moyo in BULAWAYO
CAF president, Ahmad Ahmad, says they might impose tougher requirements for stadia to host international football matches, in the wake of challenges posed by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Zimbabwean authorities have been scrambling to renovate the country’s major stadia after all of them were barred from staging matches, involving the Warriors, earlier this year.
Major renovations have been carried out at the National Sports Stadium, raising expectations among the authorities, that the country’s biggest sports facility could be given the clearance to host AFCON and World Cup qualifiers.
So, far, only the youth national team games, and international matches involving the Mighty Warriors, and the country’s national youth football sides, can be staged at either the National Sports Stadium or Barbourfields.
Addressing more than 200 journalists, including a Zimbabwe Newspapers representative, drawn from various media houses across the continent online on Tuesday, Ahmad said there would be no going back to try and ensure all stadia, for the big international matches, complied to their regulations.
In fact, said the CAF president, they could even impose tougher requirements, going forward, because of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 outbreak, with stadia expected to provide arenas where the health of the players, and everyone involved in football, would not be compromised.
“In fact, we might have to put in place stricter rules than before because, just as you can see, we have health barriers as we move towards imposing more health and safety protocols,” Ahmad said.
“There is need for the public (fans), players and other officials to be safe.
“I believe that it’s in the interest of everyone now if we want to preserve the health and safety of everybody.”
A standard dressing room, according to FIFA, must be 240 square metres, yet those at Barboufields are a mere 10 percent of that, only measuring 35 square metres.
For the stadium to meet the standards, and host matches involving the Warriors, some structural work would have to be done which might require the demolition of the whole VVIP End.
The Government insisted this week that Warriors’ next home assignment will be played at the National Sports Stadium and the procurement of bucket seats for the country’s biggest stadium was at an advanced stage.
Bucket seats were also being procured for Barbourfields and Sakubva.
With the AFCON finals having been moved from next year to 2022, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government said the long break in international football activities would afford them enough time to renovate the giant stadium.
The National Sports Stadium was banned from hosting international matches by CAF in March because of a number of concerns raised by the continental football governing body’s experts.
The media centre, medical room, disability section and the playing turf have all been upgraded at the giant stadium but the Government have had difficulties in procuring bucket seats due to restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ahmad’s hardline stance also came on the day a team of Harare City officials, and their private partners, toured Rufaro to assess work being done there.
The city leadership have come under fierce criticism after it emerged very little work has been done, since February this year, to renovate Rufaro.
They invited former councillor for Avondale, Beadle Musa Gwasira, to come in as a representative of their private partners, in the renovation of Rufaro.
The Harare City officials on tour included the acting Town Clerk, Obert Mutonhori, architect Leonard Chirombo, engineer Calvin Chigariro and spokesperson, Michael Chideme.
“Remember, the lockdown affected us two fold, one, our own workers, themselves, were on lockdown, we had only remained with a limited number of people who were focused on essential services, that is health services,” said Mutonhori.
“On the ground, the whole activity was put on hold because of the lockdown.
“Also, our suppliers, themselves, they could not supply because they were on lockdown. By the time the lockdown was partially lifted, that was when we expected our suppliers to start supplying the materials for use but, then, the prices had gone up.
“As a result, we ended up having to revisit the whole chain process of having to supply the material for the project. Some of the suppliers demanded cash upfront. We are having to restart the whole procurement process from scratch.”
Gwasira, the former Premier Soccer League fixtures secretary, was invited after he, and his partners, donated 100 bags of cement to the Bulawayo City Council, for the renovation of Barbourfields, and two fridges for use at the stadium.
“When we heard football was no longer going to be played in Zimbabwe, that it was now going to be played in South Africa, we asked why and we were given a number of reasons, including our poor changing rooms, the absence of fridges in the dressing and doping rooms and other issues,” said Gwasira.
“So, together with others, we came on board to try and help.
“There are many people willing to help but they don’t know how to because there is a procedure related to donations. Chideme asked me, why not help us since you were a councillor before and I proposed that let’s start with the major things, as indicated by ZIFA, and we can help in the renovations of the changing rooms.
“We will also approach other companies who can come and help like providing the paint, and other things, because we know the City Council has some serious challenges right now.”
Gwasira and his partners said they could guarantee they would have donated bags of cement, for the renovations of the changing rooms, by the end of this week while also providing some bricks for their construction.
“Our changing rooms at Rufaro are in very bad shape and the plan for the council is to build new ones and we will provide some help towards that and, hopefully, other companies and individuals will come on board and help because this is an important stadium for our football.”