Barbourfields Stadium has been closed indefinitely following ugly incidents of violence that have increasingly become the norm at the soccer venue during matches between perennial rivals Highlanders (Bosso) and Dynamos (DeMbare).
Last Sunday was the third time in 30 days that a game was abandoned at the stadium after Bosso supporters threw missiles onto the field.
Matches abandoned as a result of Highlanders’ supporters unruly behaviour include one on August 21 (BancABC Dynamos –Highlanders), then on August 31 (Highlanders-FC Victoria league game) and last Sunday’s highly-charged league match pitting DeMbare against Bosso.
Armed police used water cannons to quell the disturbances, sparking running battles with football fans.
Even unsuspecting residents in the nearby suburbs of Barbourfields, Mzilikazi and Nguboyenja and Amakhosi Township Square Cultural Centre were caught in the melee which spilled into the city centre.
Bulawayo City Council’s assistant director of housing and community services Mackenzie Moyo, yesterday confirmed the temporary closure, saying the stadium was no longer fit for matches until repair of the extensive damage caused by violence.
“Barbourfields Stadium has been closed. No matches can be played there.
The (perimeter) fence was destroyed. I have not been on the ground and I did not attend the match but what I can tell you is that my guys have gone there as we speak to assess the damages,” Moyo said.
During the ensuing skirmishes between soccer fans and police, the perimeter fence at the Soweto end was brought down by Highlanders supporters.
Moyo said after assessing the damage, his department would quantify the cost of repairs and forward the figures to the municipality which is currently in financial dire straits.
“The stadium has been closed indefinitely and I have communicated that to Zifa. It is now up to them to communicate this to their affiliates and to the clubs.
We have to look for funds to repair the stadium . . . insurance does not cover riots,” Moyo said.
Moyo said he would relay the decision to the Premier Soccer League.
“We as the council do not have the mandate to take any action against the clubs.
But this is very unfortunate because we have been trying to improve this stadium to meet international standards and then we have this.
We are taking one step forward and then one step back,” he said.
Trouble started after Highlanders were awarded a corner kick at the Soweto end towards the dying minutes of the match resulting in Bosso supporters throwing missiles onto the pitch in protest to an earlier decision that saw Dynamos equalise when the Bulawayo giants were leading 1-0.
The match was stopped when the fans became rowdy and the police were forced to fire teargas canisters.
Dynamos had scored their second goal and were leading 2-1 when all hell broke loose.
The players returned to resume the match after a prolonged stoppage, but police fired more teargas in the Empankweni Stand leading to fans jumping onto the pitch. Players from both teams scurried for cover and retreated to the dressing rooms.
Soccer fans in the Soweto Stand pulled down the perimeter fence and pelted the police with whatever objects they came across.
Efforts to get a comment from the police proved fruitless yesterday.