Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
RENOVATIONS at the National Sports Stadium are set to be accelerated next year after the Government set aside ZW$1,2 billion for rehabilitation of sporting facilities across the country.
The other facilities that will benefit from the budget allocation are Bulawayo’s Khumalo Hockey Stadium which has been playing host to international matches and Harare’s Magamba Hockey Stadium.
The Government also wants to refurbish Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex, a facility that played host to the 1995 All-Africa Games.
Presenting the 2023 National Budget Statement, under the theme “accelerating economic transformation” Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube said upgrading of national sporting facilities is meant to modernise them to meet international standards.
“With regards to sport and recreation, ZW$1,2 billion has been set aside for the rehabilitation and upgrading of sports facilities and recreational centres, with the aim of modernisation to conform to international standards.
“Some of the priorities include the National Sports Stadium, Khumalo and Magamba Hockey Stadiums and refurbishment of Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex swimming pools and general purpose halls,” said Prof Ncube.
Zimbabwe has no facility approved to play host to international football matches for the national teams as well as club competitions.
Fifa banned the National Sports Stadium in October 2021, saying the suspension will be lifted once outstanding issues noted in previous inspection reports have been addressed.
Among issues that the Fifa and Caf inspectors noted was that the stadium has no bucket seats, does not have modern electronic turnstiles and a venue operations centre (VOC).
The VOC serves as the command centre for security and safety operations.
The issue of stadiums has been haunting Zimbabwe for some time and the move by the Government to upgrade the National Sports Stadium at a time when Zimbabwe is suspended from participating in international competitions, gives hope that once the country is readmitted by Fifa, it will play its games at home.
In August this year, Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Sport, Arts and Recreation that the Ministry had engaged a South Africa company to spearhead the refurbishment of the National Sports Stadium.
“We are in the process (of refurbishing facilities). We have engaged a company in South Africa that refurbished Soccer City as well as Ellis Park as well as did the entire bid for South Africa to host the Fifa 2010 (World Cup). They are coming in as a consultancy to oversee the entire project. It is moving slowly,” Coventry was quoted.
The move by the Government also comes at a time when Harare City Council frustrated giant energy company, Sakunda Holdings from a deal that would have seen Rufaro Stadium undergoing major facelift to meet international standards. – @ZililoR