BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
THE Warriors’ 2021 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) and 2022 World Cup bids have been dealt a huge blow after the Confederation of African Football (Caf) condemned all Zimbabwean stadia for failure to satisfy the minimum international standards.
The ban is an indictment on the Zimbabwean government and means that the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) would be forced to look for venues beyond the borders for its national teams’ assignments.
Reigning Zimbabwean football champions FC Platinum, who are due to play in the next Caf African Champions League campaign have also been affected by the ban.
Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo – the only stadium which had provisionally been certified on condition that issues that had been raised in the inspection report would be addressed – has also been banned after the stadium authorities failed to make the improvements as directed.
This leaves Zifa with the option of securing venues for the various national teams either in South Africa, Zambia, Malawi or Mozambique.
In a statement, Zifa said: “The Zimbabwe Football Association would like to inform the football fraternity and the nation that it has received correspondence from Caf that our stadiums do not meet standards to host international matches.”
Consequently, Caf has made a decision to bar Zifa from using local stadiums in all upcoming international matches.
The decision comes against the background of a Caf stadium inspection which was conducted in November 2019 and the subsequent report circulated on December 1, which stipulated areas of improvement for three stadiums, Barbourfields, Mandava and the National Sports Stadium (NSS), to be fully homologated.
While Mandava and NSS were completely struck off the roster, Barbourfields was provisionally certified on condition that issues raised in the inspection report would be addressed.
“Stadium authorities were notified of Caf’s position and the urgent nature of the situation at hand.
“To date, neither of the three stadium authorities have requested us to invite Caf for another inspection, a position which Caf has said led to the decision to bar all three stadiums from hosting international matches,” the statement read in part.
Zifa, however, said they had engaged Caf with a view to appeal the decision and have also asked stadium authorities to commit themselves to the renovations with letters detailing
“While Zifa is engaging Caf with a view to appeal this decision, we have asked stadium authorities to send us commitment letters detailing timelines on work that needs to be done before Caf comes for another inspection. Once we receive such commitment, we will send it to Caf.
“In this moment, we urge all stakeholders to work for a common cause for us to quickly right this wrong which takes away our sovereignty. We have been using stadiums which do not meet Caf and Fifa standards for a while now, but we need to put our heads together to ensure that our stadiums are renovated to meet required standards.
“We unreservedly apologise to all football stakeholders for inconveniences that the decision has brought,” the statement added.
Zimbabwe are in the same group with neighbours Zambia for the battle to secure a berth at the Afcon finals in Cameroon. Algeria and Botswana are the other two teams in the group.
The Warriors are due to play Algeria in back-to-back clashes next month. They also still have an outstanding fixture with Zambia whom they shocked 2-1 in Lusaka last year, having played out a goalless draw against neighbours Botswana. The Warriors, who are under the guidance of Zdravko Logarušic, are in the same group with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana for the World Cup campaign to be hosted in Qatar in 2022. African football giants Ghana and Ethiopia complete the group.