Veteran sports administrator, Tommy Sithole, believes there is no need to look for scapegoats after the country’s stadiums were banned from hosting international matches by the Confederation of African Football.
Initially, the continent’s football governing body had barred the National Sports Stadium and Rufaro from hosting international games while giving Barbourfields a reprieve, on condition certain adjustments were made.
However, this week, CAF advised ZIFA that Barbourfields would not be allowed to host international matches, in a major blow to the game in this country, with the Warriors now set to host African champions Algeria on neutral soil next month.
Sithole, the former Zimbabwe Olympic Committee chairman, who spent a dozen years as director of international co-operation and development, at the International Olympic Committee, responsible for relations with governments, international organisations, education and culture, environment and humanitarian activities, is one of the country’s leading sports administrators.
In the last three years, the veteran journalist has also been representing the international sports community at the United Nations as director and deputy representative at the IOC Observer Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Sithole then served as secretary-general of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa.
Recently, Sithole joined the board of the Global Esports Federation in Singapore, which is led by Chris Chan, the secretary-general of the Singapore National Olympic Council and Vice President (Asia) for the Commonwealth Games Federation.
Esports is the most exciting and fastest growing sports around the world today and its revenue was expected to exceed US$1 billion, for the first time, last year with an estimated global audience of 453,8 million people.
Sithole feels the ban on the local stadiums was inevitable.
“It was inevitable, it was going to happen. If someone didn’t see it coming then they were not doing their job,” Sithole told The Herald.
“The problem in Zimbabwe, the biggest problem in Zimbabwe, is that all these stadiums are owned by entities who do not use them specifically for international football.
“For instance, the National Sports Stadium is owned by the Government and Barbourfields Stadium is owned by the Bulawayo City Council so they do not have the same understanding of what is required in there as the people who use the stadium.
“We have had the stadiums for years and the football association knows exactly what is required.
“Have they been pushing the Government for what is required? Have they been warning the Bulawayo City Council because we should have seen it coming, it is not new, please!
“So, when we start talking that there is something wrong, we start accusing Confederation of African Football that they are targeting us.
“It is wrong because these problems were brought to the attention of the Government when the Zimbabwe National Sports Stadium was built. Actually, there were a whole lot of changes that we at the ZOC then proposed to the Government and we were told they would be addressed in phases.
“I know for certain that signage, entry control computers, turnstiles and a whole lot of other items were donated for that phase two.
“Where did the containers that had been lying at the sports village of the Zimbabwe National Sports Stadium go?
“So, let’s not try to look for scapegoats, it’s our responsibility. We should have been pushing the Government and Bulawayo City Council to do what they were supposed to do 30 years ago.”
On the way forward, Sithole said there was need to do the right thing.
“The way forward is to do the right thing. I think we should now start very seriously to think about how much we are going to need to put into those stadiums,” he said.
“That is the way forward. If, we are going to ask for an extension, maybe an extension of a couple of these matches, but we must be seen doing the right thing.
“Minister Kirsty Coventry has taken it upon herself to address the problem. But she can’t be alone in this effort. We have to support her, it’s now or never.”
Sithole was in Mutare on Wednesday in his capacity as the Zimpapers board chairperson.
He was appointed Zimbabwe Newspapers Group board chairperson in August last year.