Sport

Caf stadia ban: Zifa racing against time

HARARE – Zimbabwe is racing against time to meet the June 15 deadline set by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to renovate local stadia that host international matches.

The government and the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) were tasked with upgrading the National Sports Stadium (NSS) in the capital and Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo so they meet international standards.

As things stand, the country is not permitted to host international matches after all the local venues were deemed unfit following recent Caf inspections.

Before the coronavirus (Covid-19) brought a sudden halt to all international matches, the Warriors were scheduled to host their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H home qualifier against Algeria in South Africa.

With 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifiers set to resume once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided, Zimbabwe is in danger of also playing home matches on foreign soil unless Caf homologates the NSS or Barbourfields.

Zifa has been tasked to send an official report compiled by the First Instance Body (Fib) formerly the Grounds Committee detailing all the renovations that have been done on the two venues before June 15.

If Caf is pleased with the progress in the Fib report, they would then send in their inspectors between June 15 and July 15.

Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela, who is also a member of Fib, told the Daily News that they are seized with the matter and are certain they will meet the Caf deadline.

“We have inspected the NSS and we have already checked Barbourfields; we will do another second round of inspections on both stadia.

“They are now working on the areas we asked them to improve on before we do the re-inspection.

“By the 13th (tomorrow) we should have completed the second round of inspection and we will send the report to Caf.

“We are confident that we will be able to meet this deadline in order for Caf to send in their inspectors to evaluate the progress that we have made,” Gwesela told the Daily News.

Last month, Sports minister Kirsty Coventry toured the NSS where she was appraised on the progress workers have done in recent months.

The playing surface which had suffered and looked bumpy in recent years has been manicured and is now looking immaculate after the stadium authorities enlisted the help of grounds men from Royal Harare Golf Club.

Most Warriors players had been complaining of the state of the pitch which they felt aggravated injuries.

In the dressing rooms, modern seats, cabinets, air condition, more toilet seats, flat screen television sets and proper lighting have now been installed.

Medical rooms for both the players and the public have also now been furnished with the necessary equipment and furniture.  A big and well-equipped press conference room filled with new desks, chairs and flat screens televisions is now complete as well.

The only delay was the installation of buckets seats with the government intending to import them from China.

However, the nationwide lockdowns currently in place in most countries due to Covid-19 have inhibited the government from taking delivery of bucket seats.

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