Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS have described as “witchcraft” the decision to continue allowing Vhengere Stadium in Rusape to host Premier Soccer League matches after falling 0-1 to relegation-threatened Mutare City Rovers on Wednesday.
Bosso became the third big team to lose at the stadium after Caps United and Ngezi Platinum Stars due to the poor state of the pitch, which is a mockery to plans being touted to modernise sporting facilities in the country.
“Banning White City Stadium and approving Vhengere is witchcraft. That PSL matches can be played on the type of pitch we played on today (Wednesday) is unbelievable. It doesn’t matter how you look at it; that field can’t even host social league football. How does anyone explain the excavation that covers the whole 12-yard area of one of the goal areas? How about the cattle paddock length grass? The dry surface that suggests the field was last watered weeks ago. Just how we insist on BF standards yet care less for them anywhere else,” Highlanders chief executive officer Nhlanhla Dube posted on Facebook.
He said they were not cry babies and not condemning the Vhengere Stadium pitch because they lost, but merely raising concerns that should be addressed by the relevant authorities.
The stadium was approved for topflight use by the First Instance Body in line with the club licensing dictates after condemning Sakubva Stadium, forcing Mutare City to play its opening games of the season in Harare.
Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said the stadium met the minimum required standards when they inspected it at the beginning of the season.
“Let me make it abundantly clear that when we inspected the facility it was in good condition and met the expected minimum standards in the VIP area, whether it could accommodate at least 5 000 spectators, dressing rooms, parking area and so forth. When we do inspections, we don’t only look at the pitch, but it seems the facility has been deteriorating since then and it is our clarion call to the owners of the stadium to maintain it,” said Gwesela, who is also chairman of the First Instance Body (FIB), which is responsible for licensing stadia.
“Rusape Town Council must therefore urgently attend to the state of that stadium as the owners of the structure,” he said.
According to the club licensing requirements, stadiums must meet expected minimum standards before FIB can approve it.
Most stadium owners, however, seem to have only worked on the required minimum standards just to get approval for use, but don’t bother to maintain those conditions.
However, Bosso have always struggled in Manicaland, managing just a single win from the nine visits to the province since 2001 when Buffaloes were still in the topflight.
In 2001, Bosso went down 0-2 to relegation-bound Buffaloes, who eventually slipped into the First Division. That left the province with no PSL football until 2007 when Eastern Lions were promoted.
Highlanders went there for a league match at Sakubva Stadium in 2007 and settled for a goalless draw. The following year, the two sides were involved in a 1-1 stalemate.
Bantu Rovers bought Lions’ franchise ahead of the 2009 season to again starve the province of Premiership football.
Buffaloes were to return in 2012 and when Bosso visited on April 22, the game ended 1-1 with a similar score line being recorded on October 15, 2013.
Bosso’s first and only victory came on March 24, 2014 when they beat Buffaloes 3-1, but when they returned on April 5, 2015, the result was a 0-0 stalemate, with Buffaloes being eventually relegated.
Mutare City made their debut entry into the big boys’ league in 2016 and made sure they preserved the province’s history against Highlanders, forcing a 0-0 draw in their first clash in July.
Mutare City lasted only a season as they were relegated at the end of 2016, but fought gallantly in Division One in 2017 to win the Eastern Region race and bounce back to the PSL this season.