FACED with the embarrassment of not enjoying Castle Lager Premiership action despite having two top- flight teams — Manica Diamonds and debutants Tenax FC — Mutare residents have joined hands with the local authority to push for the completion of Sakubva Stadium in time for the start of the 2020 season.
Since Mutare City Rovers first stint in the top-flight in 2016, the town has not hosted any top-flight matches due to the poor state of Sakubva.
When Rovers won promotion back to the Premiership in 2018, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) condemned the facility as unfit to host top-flight football.
The First Instance Body (Fib) inspected Sakubva and requested Mutare City Council to do a number of renovations which until today have not been completed.
As a result, Rovers found themselves having to play all their home games that season at the National Sports Stadium in Harare and at Vengere Stadium in Rusape.
Gusha Bhora were eventually relegated again that season as playing home away from home was financially draining and depriving the team of the much-needed 12th man.
Last season, Manica Diamonds were Mutare’s representatives in the Premiership but once again they found themselves in a spot of bother as Fib refused to homologate Sakubva.
The Gem Boys initially had to travel over 350km to Triangle to play their home games at Gibbo Stadium.
Even with their deep pockets as a team owned by the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, the Gem Boys found the trips to Gibbo financially taxing.
In the end, they pushed for some renovations to be done to Vengere where they finished the season playing their home games.
Luckily for the Gem Boys, they managed to navigate having to play their home games away from Mutare and eventually finished their debut season in the PSL in fifth place with 47 points.
For the first time in many years, the town now has two teams competing in the top-flight at the same time following Tenax’s promotion.
It will be an abomination for Mutare if both Manica Diamonds and Tenax were to play their home games away from the city if Sakubva does not get a green light to host top-flight matches.
The main areas of concern which need urgent attention include the perimeter security wall, changing rooms, goal posts, media section and the pitch.
Up until now, the Mutare City Council has been accused of failing to support local football teams due to their neglect of the venue thereby depriving locals to witness top-flight football.
Last year, the work on the perimeter wall begun but it was at a snail’s pace before town clerk Joshua Maligwa gave a directive to hasten the project. Since then, the Blessing Tandi-led council has stepped up their efforts with construction workers and other personnel now going about their business full throttle in order to get the venue ready by the start of the 2020 season in March.
With Zimbabwe’s top stadia recently being condemned by the Confederation of African Football, Zifa and Fib spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said they are now taking a tough stance when inspecting venues this year.
“This time around, we are looking at conformity with the requirements. We cannot continue compromising standards,” Gwesela told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Any venue which does not meet the minimum requirements cannot be cleared and cannot host top-flight matches, simple.”
Mutare City Council spokesperson Spren Mutiwi expressed satisfaction at the progress of renovations at Sakubva and was optimistic that the venue would be ready when Fib visits for an inspection in March.
“We expect the construction work to be completed before the Premier Soccer League season kicks off. The project is progressing well,” Mutiwi said.
He said the current effort was progressing well due to the support that football stakeholders including fans were also making towards the completion of works at the stadium.
“We would like to thank other stakeholders who have chipped in towards the renovation of the stadium,” he said.
Godwin Sithole, a soccer enthusiast who has been agitating for the renovations for the past two years and is also supporting the effort said the perimeter wall should be done by February 10.
“At the current pace the wall should be done by the 10th. The entire Mutare community has shown what they can achieve if they are united,” Sithole said.