WORKMEN at the National Sports Stadium are targeting to complete the first phase of renovations in the next 10 to 14 days as Government and football stakeholders rally to upgrade the facility to meet CAF requirements.
Sports Commission director-general, Prince Mupazviriho, yesterday told The Herald contractors who have been employed to spruce up the stadium have committed themselves to move with speed after Government released funds for the project.
“As you can see, there is a lot of work happening here. Everyone is down to work and, as you can see, the turf is being attended to and, in the evening, we should start irrigation work,” he said.
“The experts working on the lawn have told us that in the next 10 or so days it should be looking very good.
“Those that are working in the changing rooms, and the interiors, have also given us an assurance that they should be done in the next 14 days.
“So, it is going to be a busy time for us.”
The giant stadium, along with the other venues such as Rufaro and Mandava, was banned from hosting international matches after failing a series of tests by CAF.
The National Sports Stadium was condemned for its uneven turf, among a host of shortcomings that included the unsuitable turnstiles, lack of bucket seats, poor changing rooms, doping rooms, first aid room, the media tribunes as well as ablution facilities.
Zimbabwe’s situation reached a crisis last week when Barbourfields, which had been provisionally approved as the only stadium in the country able to host an international match, was added to the list of condemned stadiums.
Barbourfields was scheduled to host the Warriors’ upcoming 2021 AFCON qualifier against defending champions Algeria on March 31.
However, the continental football mother body last week directed Zimbabwe to find an alternative venue for that match.
This has forced stakeholders to spring into action and, apart from the work being carried out at the National Sports Stadium, Government has set aside $13m to assist the Bulawayo City Council with renovations of Barbourfields.
The City of Kings premier football stadium has the minimum requirements, in terms of renovations, and had already been earmarked by CAF for the Warriors’ next AFCOn qualifier.
The Algerians have already inspected it.
The Government has committed to revamp all local facilities and yesterday parted with another $2m which was disbursed to Mutare City Council for the refurbishment work currently underway at Sakubva.
Youth, Arts, Sport and Recreation Minister, Kirsty Coventry, is happy with the commitment demonstrated by the Government, and stakeholders, in the sport industry towards revamping the country’s major facilities.
“I am happy to see all stakeholders working towards the upgrading of our Barbourfields and National Sports Stadium,” she tweeted.
“We can achieve so much when we work together.”
The authorities have come under fire from the sports fraternity who have accused them of knee-jerk reactions.
The issue was also brought up in Parliament yesterday but it could not be discussed, at length, since Local Government and Public Works Minister, July Moyo, was not in the August House.
The Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda said they were waiting for a ministerial statement from Moyo before the subject could be discussed in full.
However, Local Government and Public Works Deputy Minister, Marian Chombo, answered the question as to why the National Sports Stadium, which was built under a bi-lateral arrangement with the Chinese Government in the 1980s, had deteriorated to such levels.
“If you look back on the budgets that we have been submitting from previous years, you will notice that maintenance of stadiums has not been given priorities,” she said.
“The financing that we have been given, as a ministry, has not been enough for us to be able to maintain the stadium.
“Also, most of the stadiums are maintained by the local authorities although they fall under the Ministry of Local Government.
“In addition to that, right now we have put in place mechanisms where we are maintaining the National Sports Stadium and we are also hoping to maintain Barbourfields Stadium.”