Football return: PSL faces stadium crisis
THE deplorable state of most stadia is the next biggest challenge facing local football after the government’s recent decision to allow the game to resume amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
After close to eight months on the sidelines due to the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the novel virus, the authorities finally allowed football to return in a staggered manner last week.
Initially, the 2020 season should have commenced in March but had to be postponed after all sporting events were also banned.
Following months of negotiations, there is light at the end of the tunnel for local football but there are still a lot of hurdles to be crossed before the action can finally take off.
The lack of proper infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges facing local football hence the recent ban from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) prohibiting Zimbabwe from hosting international matches.
The Warriors were scheduled to play their 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H home qualifier against Algeria back in March on foreign soil before the outbreak of Covid-19.
Luckily for the national team, Caf provisionally granted permission for the National Sports Stadium (NSS) to host the match next month when the Afcon qualifiers resume.
But for local matches, it’s a tall order because shortly before the season was supposed to kick off earlier this year, the First Instance Body (Fib) which was previously the Grounds Committee, had only certified six stadia as ready to host top-flight matches.
Only Gibbo, Vhengere, Barbourfields, Luveve, Mandava and Baobab were deemed fit to host matches across the country. In the capital, there are at least seven teams including Dynamos, CAPS United, Harare City, Black Rhinos, Yadah FC which will have to share the NSS for the time being when the league finally commences which will be an ideal situation.
Rufaro and Gwanzura, which are all owned by the Harare City Council, are still not yet ready for action despite having been undergoing renovations since last year.
Due to the congestion in the capital, Black Rhinos were exploring taking their home games to either Chinhoyi Stadium or Trojan Stadium in Bindura before the outbreak of Covid-19.
In Mutare, where there are now two top-flight teams — Manica Diamonds and Tenax FC — the council is still also sprucing up Sakubva Stadium for the venue to be permitted to host league matches.
“We have been checking on the renovations at all the venues across the country and in the coming weeks, we will have to re-inspect all the stadia that will be hosting matches.
“At the moment we are glad that the NSS has been provisionally homologated by Caf and it is now available for use.
“We take between three to four days to inspect all the stadia and once that process has been completed, we will advise on which venue will be homologated for topflight matches,” Zifa spokesperson Xolisani
Gwesela, who is also a member of Fib, told the Daily News on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Zifa had hoped for top-flight teams to begin training tomorrow following the green light from the government for football to resume activities. However, that plan looks unlikely to succeed as there are still numerous protocols teams have to go through first.
Players, officials and support staff have to be tested first and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) is insisting that they have to take charge of the process.
The league has tasked the medical committee to take charge of the process and have forwarded all the requirements to Zifa for funding approval.
This comes as newly-promoted Bulawayo City last week announced they had recorded three positive cases among their players and staff.
Amakhosi conducted their own tests without the PSL’s approval and this resulted in the league ordering all teams to follow the lead of the medical committee.