ZIMBABWE’S representatives in the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League, FC Platinum, have been asked to shift base from Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane to Barbourfields in Bulawayo for their first Caf Champions League group stage match against Orlando Pirates.
BY TERRY MADYAUTA
The Zvishavane team host the South African premier league giants on Saturday next week, but will not enjoy home advantage after Caf condemned their stadium.
Interestingly, FC Platinum played the preliminary and first round matches at the same stadium, which the continental football body now says is not fit to host inter-club competition matches.
FC Platinum have used the same stadium in previous years to host Champions League and Confederation Cup matches.
In a statement yesterday, Zifa said FC Platinum had been asked to choose between Barbourfields Stadium and the National Sports Stadium in Harare, at which the champions picked the former.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) advises the football family that FC Platinum’s Total Champions’ League group match against Orlando Pirates will be played at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo.
“The Confederation of African Football advised Zifa that FC Platinum’s traditional home ground, Mandava Stadium, does not meet minimum requirements for this stage of Africa’s prestigious club competition.
“The other stadium homologated by Caf to host group stage matches for inter-club competitions is the National Sports Stadium, but FC Platinum selected Barbourfields Stadium for convenience.
“Caf will conduct further inspections for Mandava Stadium, Barbourfields Stadium and the National Sports Stadium going forward.”
The development comes as a huge blow to the Norman Mapeza-coached side, who were banking on their home support as they seek to make an impression in their first-ever appearance at this stage of the competition.
It will be also a big dissapointment to club’s management who have invested heavily, particularly in this infrastructure to try and make sure that the Zvishavane community enjoys such kind of matches and moments.
Reports suggest that Caf raised a red flag over the stadium’s floodlighting since some of the fixtures were likely to be played at night.
The match against Pirates will be played in the afternoon, with a 3pm kick-off. They also raised concerns over the media facilities and VIP stands at Mandava, which they said did not conform to their standards.
The platinum miners are looking to make an impression in the group stages where they were drawn alongside heavyweights, including current champions Esperance of Tunisia, Orlando Pirates and Horoya of Guinea.
After the Pirates match, FC Platinum travel to face Esperance of Tunisia on the weekend of January 18 to 20 before hosting Horoya in early February 12-14. The return leg against the Guineas is scheduled for the weekend of February 12-14.
They then travel to Pretoria to face Pirates on March 10 and conclude their group stage matches with a home date against Esperance on March 17, at which they will be hoping to be among the top two sides from the group to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition.