Zifa in fresh stadia headache

BY FORTUNE MBELE

THE Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) is facing a fresh headache over the poor state of the country’s two stadia, the National Sports Stadium (NSS) and Barbourfields (BF) following the release of dates for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

The NSS and BF were condemned by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) and banned from hosting international matches.

The Warriors are set to host Algeria between November 9 and 17 in an Afcon qualifier and that match had been billed to be played in South Africa after the NSS and BF were deemed unsuitable.

The government came in to revamp both facilities and after the refurbishments were done as per Caf recommendations, the stadia still fell short after another round of inspection by Caf officials in March.

That inspection was done to provide Zifa and stadium owners with areas that required urgent attention before further inspections scheduled for June and July which were later shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But government has continued working on the NSS while the Bulawayo City Council also continued sprucing up BF with the local inspections being done by government and Zifa’s first instance body in May as a percussor to the June-July Caf inspections.

Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela yesterday said they will stand guided by Caf as they submitted a report on the progress made as of June 1.

“We had a June 15 deadline on which we had to submit a report on the progress that has been done at the stadia. We have since submitted the report to Caf and we stand guided by them. On outstanding issues at the stadiums, the government is well-placed to comment since they are renovating the facilities,” Gwesela said.

Sports and Recreation Commission director-general Prince Mupazviriho recently told Parliament that the NSS met minimum requirements to host international matches with the outstanding issues being installation of bucket seats, proper turnstiles and an e-ticketing system.

BF has its fair share of outstanding issues which include the bucket seats, lighting and dressing rooms, among other issues.

On the dressing rooms, a recent council report stated: “…the change rooms in their present size remained the sticking point. The Caf inspectors contended that they were way smaller in size for international match requirements and recommended that they be expanded. New designs of change rooms had been done to comply with recommendations. The requisite works would be executed once funding had been availed.”

The last round of the Afcon qualifiers will be played in March next year.

World Cup qualifiers are slated for May 31 to June 15, August 30 to September 7 and the last round on October 4-12 next year.

Caf have stressed that both stadia will have to have bucket seats before the ban is lifted.

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