BY FORTUNE MBELE
FOOTBALL fans in Bulawayo and its environs have once against been robbed of a high-profile Warriors match as the Zimbabwe senior men’s national team’s Group H 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Botswana on November 15 has been moved from Barbourfields to the National Sports Stadium in Harare amid concerns of poor lighting.
The match had been scheduled to be played under floodlights at BF before Joey Antipas’ men take on Zambia four days later at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela yesterday said the Confederation of African Football (Caf) had moved the match from Bulawayo due to uncertainty over lighting at the venue.
The Bulawayo City Council could not give guarantees over the functionality of the stadium lighting, and Caf could not take chances.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association wishes to advise the public and all stakeholders that the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Zimbabwe and Botswana, initially scheduled for Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo on November 15, has been moved to the National Sports Stadium in Harare,” Gwesela said.
“The decision to move the match follows communication from the Bulawayo City Council on the issue of floodlights at Barbourfields Stadium where they could not guarantee their good working order as they were last put to use in 2017 during the Cosafa Women’s Championship.
“In the absence of such a guarantee and in pursuit of conformance with their minimum requirements, Caf has switched the match to the National Sports Stadium to avoid the potential of floodlight failure during the match — a situation that could trigger security risk to the fans, players and officials.”
Gwesela claimed that they had made a request to have the match played at BF at 3pm, and the idea was shot down by the continental body.
“Zifa had pleaded with the continental mother body to move the match to 1500hrs on the same day, but Caf could not grant the request as all qualifiers, across Africa, will be played at 1800hrs,” the Zifa spokesperson said.
“The Zifa executive committee commits to host the next international match, which is to be played during daylight, at Barbourfields Stadium and that we remain committed to a rotational system that will allow all fans an opportunity to support their team in flesh and blood.”
The cheapest ticket for the match at the National Sports Stadium will be $20 for the rest of the ground, $50 for Bays 15-18 and $120 for the VIP.
In September, the preliminary round second leg 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Somalia, which had also been slated for BF, was moved to Harare as the Under-23 Young Warriors were hosting South Africa in an Afcon qualifier on September 10 at the same venue.
A change of dates for the Warriors-Somalia match caused a clash and the senior team had to switch to the National Sports Stadium.
The Warriors last played at BF in December 2013 in a friendly match against Mozambique as the team prepared for the 2014 African Nations Championship finals that were hosted by South Africa.
In 2000, Barbourfields Stadium hosted the Sunday Chidzambga-coached Warriors when they beat Lesotho 3-0 in the Cosafa Cup final second leg match.