and Jeffrey Muvundusi
THE Warriors were handed a huge boost yesterday as they will now host Algeria in next month’s 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifier on home soil.
A schedule released by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) showed that the Warriors will take on the Desert Foxes at the National Sports Stadium (NSS) on November 16.
Four days earlier, the two teams would have locked horns at the July 5 Stadium in Algiers when the Group H qualifiers finally resume following an eight-month break due to the global outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).
Initially, the matches should have taken place in March but had to be postponed following travel restrictions and lockdowns imposed by most governments worldwide.
Back then, the Warriors were scheduled to host the home leg of the qualifiers on foreign soil after Caf banned Zimbabwe from hosting international matches due to dilapidated venues.
The NSS, Rufaro Stadium and Bulawayo’s Barbourfields Stadium were all condemned by the continental football body’s inspectors.
As a result, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) was forced to settle for Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa to host the Warriors and Desert Foxes clash.
This would have deprived coach Zdravko “Loga” Logarusic and his men the crucial home advantage against the reigning African champions.
Algeria currently top Group H with six points, Zimbabwe are second on four points while Botswana are third with a single point and Zambia anchor the pool as they are yet to get off the mark.
The two clashes between the Warriors and Desert Foxes are likely to determine the group winners.
Luckily for the Warriors, the matches were postponed as Covid-19 brought the world to a standstill.
Following the great embarrassment brought about by the Caf ban on local stadia, the government took the lead and began to spearhead the renovations at the NSS and Barbourfields.
Despite the delays created by Covid-19, there has been significant progress at the NSS where the dressing rooms have been fitted with modern seats, cabinets, air condition, more toilet seats, flat screen television sets and proper lighting.
Medical rooms for both the players and the public have also now been furnished with the necessary equipment and furniture.
The playing surface, which had suffered and looked bumpy in recent years, is also looking immaculate and well-manicured.
A big and well-equipped press conference room filled with new desks, chairs and flat screen television sets is now complete as well.
The only outstanding work at the venue was the installation of bucket seats and an automated turnstile system.
The government had hoped to import the bucket seats and the turnstiles from China but that plan hit a snag due to delays in shipping caused by Covid-19.
As a backup plan, the Sports ministry recently opened up the tendering process to local companies to manufacture and supply the bucket seats.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, fans are unlikely to be permitted to attend the match, which gives the government some breathing space in terms of finishing the bucket seats and automated turnstiles installation.
Meanwhile, the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has revealed that $60 million was needed to complete renovations at Barbourfields.
“The upgrading of Barbourfields began in January 2020. This was to ensure that the stadium was suitable for hosting international matches in line with Fifa requirements.
“A total of $14,4 million has been received from the central government. A further $60 million is still needed in the medium term to meet the Fifa requirements,” the BCC’s latest council report said.
Barbourfields was commissioned in 1957 and structurally, the venue is outdated and would need considerable work to be done on it to meet the present-day requirements for international football.