‘This is is not it’

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FORMER South Africa defender Mark Fish believes Zimbabwe’s stadia need
to be renovated to the levels of those found in north Africa in order
for the local game to develop.

Football facilities in countries like Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and
Algeria are of world class standard compared to the rest of the
continent.

Fish, together with compatriot Derek Blackensee, are part of a
two-member Confederation of African Football (Caf) inspection team
going around southern Africa assessing stadia ahead of the 2022 Qatar
World Cup qualifiers in October.

The duo inspected the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Thursday
and arrived in Bulawayo yesterday to check on the progress of works
currently taking place at Barbourfields Stadium.

This comes as all of Zimbabwe’s match venues were deemed unfit to host
international matches by Caf last month.

“Nice to be in Zimbabwe and this is my first time to be here in
Bulawayo. Couple of weeks ago it was agreed between Caf and Fifa that
we have World Cup qualifiers on the continent coming up so we need
World Cup quality stadia.

“Most importantly for me as an ex-footballer is that us on the
continent have some of the best footballers in the world and I’ll give
an example of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.

“We don’t compete though on the world stage especially when we look at
the sub-Sahara region that is Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, South
Africa and other countries.

“If I look at the stadia in Egypt at the last Afcon, we are way behind
down here in the sub-Sahara region and that’s what we need to change.
We have quality footballers and they need to play in quality stadia as
well,” Fish told reporters at Barbourfields yesterday.

The retired tough tackling defender, who was part of the Bafana Bafana
squad which won the 1996 Afcon title, however, commended the way
Zimbabwe has reacted to the stadia ban.

“Each country and each stadium has its own unique pros and cons.
Unfortunately a ban was imposed on you guys but if you look at it
another way, certain things needed to change and now because of this,
everything is happening at the stadia that would not have happened.

“It looks like government is now involved and they fully understand
the importance of football; the passion Bulawayo people have for
football.

“It’s important to have a world class stadium so that fans can come
and watch their national team play. There’s no comparison but specific
stadia on the continent need upliftment,” Fish said.

Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela paid tribute to the government for
funding the renovations for the two venues.

“Zifa is very grateful to the Zimbabwean government which has shown
total commitment so that our stadia are uplifted to the required
levels. Since the ban, we have seen major works at the National Sports
Stadium in Harare and it is even evident here that there is progress
to ensure the stadia are renovated to meet the standards,” Gwesela
told reporters.

Meanwhile, Caf yesterday postponed all Match Day 3 and 4 of the
qualifiers scheduled for March 25 to 31 until further notice, meaning
that Zimbabwe’s back- to-back fixtures against the Desert Foxes will
have to be played at a later date to be announced.

The announcement follows the growing concerns of the coronavirus
spread and the declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a
pandemic.

When Warriors coach Zdravko “Loga” Logarusic announced his initial
squad for the qualifiers against Algeria, the team was largely made up
of foreign-based players.

Only three locally-based players  — Partson Jaure, Ian Nekati and
Peter Muduhwa had made the team.

With Europe being reported to be the new epicentre of the coronavirus
it was always going to be an uphill task to get the likes captain
Knowledge Musona, Alec Mudimu, Teenage Hadebe, Marvelous Nakamba, Tino
Kadewere and Macauley Bonne to travel considering for the games.

However, it is not clear whether the Total African Nations
Championship that is set to kick off in Cameroon next month would go
ahead.

The Warriors are currently in camp making preparations for that
tourney, which is for players plying their trade in local leagues.

Caf had earlier this week announced that any decision with regards to
the hosting of the tourney would be determined by informed restrictive
measures taken by the authorities of some member associations and
final solutions would be made on a case-by-case basis, with the option
of the matches being played behind closed doors.

Nash Mkokwayarira
in BULAWAYO

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