BY MOSES MATENGA
In what could be viewed as a clear indication that the government is not concerned about sports development, Cabinet yesterday did not discuss the crisis that has befallen local football following a decision by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) on Tuesday to condemn all local football stadiums which were declared unsuitable to host international matches.
Caf this week said Barbourfields, the only venue which was still hosting international matches following the condemnation of the National Sports Stadium last year, no longer met the standards required.
That means all national teams will play their matches outside the country.
Following the Caf bombshell, there has been an outpour of anger from local soccer-loving people, most whom cannot afford to travel outside the country to watch the national team in action.
Football stakeholders were expecting President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Cabinet that sat yesterday, to include the issue on the meeting’s agenda since it is a national crisis.
However, it emerged that the Executive body that forms the government of the country did not raise the issue for deliberation at their meeting yesterday.
“There was nothing discussed on the matter. It was not raised by anyone,” Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda told journalists after the meeting.
“Maybe if the (Sports) minister (Kirsty Coventry) was there, she could have raised it.”
This was in response to questions on whether government was committed to promoting sports in the country in the wake of deteriorating sporting facilities.
When reached for a comment, Coventry said: “I am not talking about Caf. I am waiting for a few bits and pieces in terms of information before I make a statement.”
She promised to issue the statement today.
Government owns the National Sports Stadium which has suffered neglect, while Barbourfields is owned by the Bulawayo City Council. Rufaro, the other facility that used to host international matches before it was also condemned, is owned by Harare City Council.
Harare City Council, also accused of neglecting its facilities, yesterday said it was making efforts to refurbish its stadiums, including Gwanzura.
Zimbabwe was due to host Algeria in a 2021 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifier in March, but that game is now set to be played outside the country after the condemnation.
There is also another Group H Afcon match against Zambia that Zimbabwe should host, and 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers that start later this year, and there are genuine fears that they will all be played at neutral venues.
Premier Soccer League champions FC Platinum and Highlanders, who are set to participate in the Caf Confederations Cup this year, will also be affected as they will play their matches out of the country.