Stadia ban a wake-up call

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FOR the past one-and-a-half weeks the government, Harare and Bulawayo city councils have been busy conducting renovations to some of the country’s main football venues.

Crews have been working through the night at the National Sports, Rufaro and Barbourfields stadia.
The frantic construction work was necessitated by the recent de-homologation of all Zimbabwe’s football venues by the Confederation of African Football (Caf).

Caf had warned the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) regarding the dilapidated state of local match venues which were no longer suitable to host international matches.

As a result of the ban, Zifa has to look for an alternative stadium outside the country to host the forthcoming 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifier against Algeria.

This means Zimbabwe would have to play its home games away from home which would be a first for a nation that is not at war.

It was going to be a costly exercise for Zifa if this game was going to be staged on foreign soil because of the logistical nightmare it would present for the cash-strapped association.

There is hope though that the game would be played at Barbourfields following the intervention of Cosafa president Philip Chiyangwa.

Caf inspectors are expected in Zimbabwe next week to look at the work that has been done at Barbourfields and hopefully this time around they will give the venue a green light to host international football.

What is disappointing though in this episode is the fact that it had to take a crisis of this magnitude in order to get the government and councils off their bums to start the renovations at these stadia.

Procrastination and a general lack of urgency is now a national problem in every fabric of Zimbabwean culture right up from the government and down to local authorities.

One of the reasons the country was stripped off its rights to host the 2000 Afcon finals was because local stadia were not yet ready for such a big tournament.

Nothing was done to upgrade these facilities and almost 20 years on, it has now come back to haunt the country.
Plans to upgrade and renovate the stadia have been in place, but there was just no will from the powers that be to see them becoming a reality. This Caf stadia ban should be a wake-up call for Zimbabwe as a country.

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