Zimbabwe: Officials Scramble to Resolve Stadium Crisis

The issue of the banned stadiums has become a rallying point between major football stakeholders in the country as they scramble to find a solution to the crisis.

The Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation yesterday convened meetings with ZIFA officials and the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to find a way out of the crisis.

Zimbabwe were dealt a huge blow this week after CAF announced that all the country’s major football stadiums were not fit to host international matches, including the upcoming AFCON qualifier against Algeria.

The match was scheduled to be held at Barbourfields on March 31 after the Bulawayo venue had been given partial clearance by CAF during the last round of inspection.

However, Zimbabwe were told this week to look for an alternative venue, outside the country, to host the match because of lack of renovations at Barbourfields.

Yesterday’s meeting, which involved officials from the Ministry of Local Government, who manage the country’s biggest multi-sports facility — the National Sports Stadium — agreed sports infrastructure in the country badly needed urgent attention.

Sports Minister, Kirsty Coventry and ZIFA officials, have been on record in the past decrying the poor state of the country’s stadiums.

“We all know that the stadiums in Zimbabwe have been deteriorating for ages but it is now my responsibility to make sure we fix this mess,” Coventry tweeted.

“Overnight solutions will not work but know that I am on it. I will keep you posted.”

Harare’s Rufaro and Gwanzura have also been struck off the CAF roaster because they are in a deplorable state.

In fact, Gwanzura cannot even host the domestic games and has been closed for the last five years.

The National Sports Stadium hosted some of the qualifying games last year when Zimbabwe featured in a goalless draw against Botswana in November.

The Warriors have been complaining about the uneven turf which often resulted in injuries.

The Government is expected to give a commitment to the refurbishment of the National Sports Stadium before the CAF inspectors can be called again to run the rule on the facility.

It was not immediately clear whether Harare City Council, who own Rufaro and Gwanzura and a host of local facilities in the capital, attended yesterday’s meeting.

Sources yesterday said that the meeting was not a witch-hunt but was meant to find a way forward with the relevant stakeholders giving a contribution.

“It was a fruitful meeting. There were some agreements reached but it’s too early to pronounce some of the things,” the sources said.

“But, it was wholly agreed that our stadiums are not in good shape and that they needed to be renovated with speed.”

Sports Commission director-general, Prince Mupazviriho, confirmed Coventry was working to resolve the crisis.

“This is an issue that is being handled at the level of the minister and I am sure when the appropriate time comes, a statement will be issued out.

“So, I cannot discuss much at the moment,” said Mupazviriho.

ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, confirmed they had a meeting but could not shed more light.

Gwesela said ZIFA were keen to see the issue being resolved and allow the national teams to play at home again.

Currently, ZIFA are hunting for an alternative venue with reports yesterday suggesting that they had settled for Orlando Stadium in South Africa.

“We are still working on the alternatives in one of the neighbouring countries. I think we should have a clear position by Monday,” said Gwesela.

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Senegal, James Maridadi, yesterday said there was still time for the local authorities to find a way to ensure Barbourfields was renovated to host the next Warriors match.

The ambassador, a keen sports fan, said everything must be done to ensure that the Warriors play at home rather than endure the embarrassment of hosting Algeria on neutral soil.

“There is still a month to go and the things that are needed to be done to ensure Barbourfields, at least, can host that match can be attended to within that time frame and we can play our next match at home because this is about our dignity as a nation,” said Maridadi.

“We need to do everything possible to ensure that we play that match at home and I know that we have the means, if we really put everything into it, to ensure the match is played on our soil.

“It’s disappointing to hear some of the stakeholders already talking about having decided that the match be played out of Zimbabwe and that tells you they never considered the impact of not having this game on our soil.

“We need to be bold and say that, whatever it takes, within the next couple of weeks we will ensure that we get everything in place and our boys play at home and enjoy that home advantage.

“The story is big news and it’s everywhere around the world and it’s an opportunity for us to show the world that we can come together as a country and move mountains because this is about our pride as a nation.”

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