Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE Confederation of African Football has given the greenlight to Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo to host international matches, while banning Zvishavane’s Mandava Stadium and the National Sports Stadium in Harare respectively.
Rufaro Stadium in Harare was not even inspected, as it’s in a deplorable state and Caf didn’t bother with it.
“Following Caf stadium inspections last month, Mandava Stadium and NSS failed to meet minimum requirements to host Caf matches. Consequently, they have been removed from the list of homologated stadiums. Caf have also exceptionally authorised Barbourfields to host Caf matches,” Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said in a brief statement.
The three stadiums were inspected last month by South African-based Caf grounds inspector, Kabelo Bosilong.
During the inspection, Bosilong looked at the field of play, dressing rooms, access areas, medical and media facilities as well as floodlights. Bosilong also looked at the state of accommodation facilities in surrounding hotels and lodges, among a host of other critical areas.
Mandava Stadium, home to Zimbabwe’s Caf Champions League representatives, FC Platinum, might have fallen victim to the non-availability of floodlights.
The stadium is one of the best on the domestic scene in terms of the turf, accessibility and drainage system.
With the red-carding of the National Sports Stadium, should Caps United win this year’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title, they too, like FC Platinum, will be forced to relocate to Bulawayo for their Champions League campaign next year.
If Highlanders also elect to take part in the Caf Confederation Cup, they will also use Barbourfields Stadium, congesting the venue with international fixtures, as the Warriors’ World Cup qualifying group matches resume in three months’ time. The Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers resume in August 2020 with the Warriors playing host to African champions, Algeria.
There was a furore last month when the opening round of the Afcon qualifier between Zimbabwe and Botswana was switched from Barbourfields to the National Sports Stadium, with claims that there was no guarantee of uninterrupted floodlighting since the match was played in the evening.
The exclusion of the country’s largest stadium and ceremonial home of football from the Caf approved venues lists is testament to the authorities’ lackadaisical approach to maintenance.
The National Sports Stadium is a property of the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, which has long neglected decent maintenance of the facility. Although the Caf inspector hasn’t released his reasons for not approving use of the venue, the National Sports Stadium turf is evidently in a sorry state and not even suitable for a boozers’ game.
However, the stadium has continued to host crucial Warriors’ matches as well as PSL games in its appalling state, which has grossly affected the quality of football at the venue.
While Harare City Council has continued to sponsor Harare City in the PSL, it has totally abdicated its responsibility of maintaining Rufaro Stadium. It’s shocking that a stadium that was closed for refurbishment about three seasons ago is actually in a worse off state than before.
The outcome of the Caf inspection goes to prove that if the First Instance Body, Zifa’s grounds inspectors, was serious in its assessment of stadiums and just used the continental football governing body’s minimum requirements, no league matches would be played in other parts of the country except at Barbourfields.
This must be a wake-up call to football authorities that Zimbabwe only has one stadium worthy of hosting international football and if the Bulawayo City Council drops the ball, then all our facilities will only be good enough for the amateur game.