PARLIAMENT has summoned football stakeholders, including government ministries, the Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC) and Zifa over the decaying sporting facilities in the country which have been banned from hosting international soccer matches.
BY HENRY MHARA
According to a schedule circulated this week, the ministries of Sport and Local Government, the SRC and Zifa will today give oral evidence on the state of sporting facilities in the country before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.
The country’s main football facilities have been condemned from hosting Confederation of African Football (Caf) matches and the government, which owns the National Sports Stadium, is racing against time to spruce up the facility.
Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo was also condemned last month, and Bulawayo City Council, who owns it, is also battling to renovate it to meet the minimum Caf requirements so that it can host the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Algeria at the end of the month.
Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane, which has also hosted international matches before and home to league champions FC Platinum, was also condemned. Its owners are also working to improve the facility to meet the requirements.
Zimbabwe is set to play the African champions in a Group H qualifier on March 29, but the country risks the embarrassment of hosting the match outside its borders.
A number of areas were flagged by a Caf inspection team that toured the facilities and work has already started on the two stadiums as government and the Bulawayo City Council are now working on a crash programme to rectify the anomalies in the hope that the ban imposed is lifted.
Things that need urgent attention to meet the minimum requirements include sprucing the playing surface to meet international standards, fixing the team benches, renovating the dressing rooms, putting doping control and first aid rooms, installation of floodlights that meet the Caf requirements, as well as setting up media facilities.
Government has already availed $13 million against a budget of $58 million to the Bulawayo City Council for remedial works at Barbourfields, while other football stakeholders have made donations in an attempt to avert the threat of the country hosting matches outside its borders.
Former Premier Soccer League fixtures secretary Musa Gwasira donated 100 bags of cement and a refrigerator for the doping control room at Barbourfields, while Herentals Group of Colleges has pledged to upgrade the dressing rooms for teams and referees.
At the National Sports Stadium, work continued on the facility and this week groundsmen could be seen working on the playing surface which Caf demanded should be trimmed much lower.
The Caf inspection team is expected back in the country in a fortnight and it is Zimbabwe’s hope that the team will be happy with the renovations that are taking place in the three stadiums.
However, Zifa have already put in place a contingent plan for the Algeria match in the event that the renovations do not meet the standards.
Sources said the association has picked Orlando Stadium in South Africa as an alternative venue for the big match.