‘Use football stadia for football only’

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NIGEL MATONGORERE

SPORTS EDITOR

 

©️ ZIMBABWE will continue to fall foul of the Confederation of African Football stadium regulations unless drastic changes are made on how the country manages its facilities, the Daily News on Sunday can report.

All the country’s main football venues were condemned by Caf and the Warriors had to find an alternative stadium on foreign soil to host their home matches.

Before the back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifiers against Algeria were postponed last month due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, the Zimbabwe Football Association had earmarked Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, as the Warriors’ home ground.

This came after Caf had banned the National Sports Stadium in Harare and Bulawayo’s Barbourfields Stadium from hosting international matches.

Following the ban, the government availed resources for renovations to be done at both venues.

Last month, Caf sent former Bafana Bafana defender Mark Fish and his compatriot David Blackensee to re-inspect the two venues ahead of the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifiers.

The two South Africans again gave the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields adverse reports, meaning Zimbabwe still does not have a suitable venue to host international matches.

The country has been given another deadline of June 15 to finish all the necessary renovations or else the Warriors will play all their World Cup qualifiers on foreign soil.

In an interview with the Daily News on Sunday, First Instance Body (Fib) chairperson Piraishe Mabhena said a fundamental shift is required for Zimbabwe get out of this mess regarding football venues.

Fib is the Zifa committee mandated in the Club Licensing modules to be responsible for football infrastructure like stadia.

“Sports facilities should be managed by those associations which are responsible for using them but that was not the case in Zimbabwe.

“I’m glad that the National Sports Stadium is now back in the hands of the Sports ministry which is the ideal situation. I hope it will remain like that in future,” Mabhena told the Daily News on Sunday.

The former Zifa board member also spoke of the need to invest in new sporting facilities that are tailor made for modern trends.

“If you look at Barbourfields, it was constructed in the 1950s while the National Sports Stadium was completed in 1989.

“When you look at the evolution of sport, these are old facilities and there are many structural limitations when you try to renovate them to meet modern standards.

“We need to constantly renovate the facilities that we have and in other cases we need to build new stadia when the ones we have can no longer meet the requirements,” Mabhena said.

The other fundamental change Zimbabwe has to embrace has to do with stadia usage and management.

“If it’s a football stadium, only football should be played there and nothing else; the same goes for a hockey or a cricket stadium.

“Political and church gatherings should not be held at stadia that we intend to use to host international football matches.

“If you look at all the reports by the Caf inspectors, they all complained about the state of the pitch.

“We should have designated venues to host political and church gatherings so that we preserve the turf of our stadia for international matches,” Mabhena said.

Regarding the ultimatum Caf gave to Zimbabwe, Mabhena is convinced the renovations will be complete before June 15.

“Before the lockdown, the workers had done some considerable ground work and I’m confident we will meet the deadline.

“There will be some delays here and there because of the lockdown but we have put in place measures that will keep us on track.

“As Fib, we are now receiving weekly reports regarding the renovations and by the time the Caf inspectors return in June, we would have conducted our own inspection to ensure that everything is in order,” he said.

 

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