ZIMBABWEAN football yesterday plumbed to an all-time low after the Confederation of African Football (Caf) ordered the men’s national team, the Warriors to play its forthcoming matches away from home due to dilapidated stadiums which have been deemed not up to standard, the Daily News reports.
This comes at a time the dire state of football in the country is now widely seen as being in its worst condition since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in April 1980.
Yesterday’s decision marked the first time that all local grounds have been deemed to be unfit for international football.
This comes after Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo, which was the only venue that Caf had last year deemed fit to host international matches, was also condemned by the continental football authority.
“Zifa would like to inform the football fraternity 3and the nation that it has received correspondence from Caf that our stadiums do not meet … standards to host international matches.
“Consequently, Caf has made a decision to bar Zifa from using local stadiums in all upcoming international matches.
“Meanwhile, we have also started the process of looking for an alternative venue in neighbouring countries to host our upcoming matches,” Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said yesterday.
Caf last year banned the National Sports Stadium and Mandava Stadium from hosting international matches, saying they lacked adequate facilities.
This means that the Warriors will have to play their upcoming home game against Algeria, in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifier, out of the country.
Zimbabwe is also supposed to host Zambia in their final Group H qualifier in September, while another home 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifier is scheduled for October.
All the upcoming matches are now likely to be staged in neighbouring South Africa or Zambia.
The move will be very costly to an already cash-strapped Zifa, as they will need to provide air tickets, accommodation and other logistics for the team to play on foreign soil.
For many years, Zifa, the Premier Soccer League and clubs have tried hard to persuade the various stadia owners to upgrade their facilities, so that they can meet Caf standards.
The National Sports Stadium falls under the purview of the ministry of Local Government, Mandava is owned by the Zvishavane City Council, while Bulawayo City Council are the proprietors of Barbourfields.
Some of the issues raised by Caf in condemning these stadia relate to deplorable changing rooms and bumpy playing surfaces.
Meanwhile, Zifa is now hoping that the venue owners will come to the party and implement all the Caf recommendations as soon as possible.