BY TERRY MADYAUTA
ZIMBABWE’S Premier Soccer League (PSL) champions FC Platinum are in a fix ahead of the 2020/2021 Caf Champions League edition, as they are likely to host their continental rivals on foreign soil following a ban on their preferred local venues, Barbourfields (BF) and the National Sports Stadium.
They are awaiting the green light from Zifa to start group training, having last trained as a team in March with the competition set to begin in two months’ time.
However, it is the country’s stadia dilemma that could weigh heavily on them, with Caf insisting that BF is not good enough to host women and youth football fixtures.
At the moment, Zimbabwe does not have a stadium fit enough to host men’s continental matches after the National Sports Stadium also failed to meet the Caf standard.
Sports minister Kirsty Coventry has since promised to get the stadium ready for the next international matches, but government is yet to instal the mandatory bucket seats.
Zifa are also not aware when the Caf inspectors will come in for the next round of inspection.
There is little time left before the Caf champions league starts on November 20 with preliminary round matches.
This casts doubt on FC Platinum’s ability to host their matches locally
Afcon qualifiers have also been earmarked to resume on November 9.
Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said they were hoping the stadium owners, the Bulawayo City Council and the government, would meet the Caf requirements in time for the upcoming fixtures.
“At the moment, Barbourfields Stadium can only host women and youth fixtures. For the senior men, it remains banned just like the National Sports Stadium,” he said.
“We urge the authorities to try and make the required improvements in time for the upcoming fixtures both for the Caf Champions League and the Afcon qualifiers.”
Meanwhile, FC Platinum have been enforcing individual training programmes since the start of the COVID-19-induced lockdown, but that alone has not been enough for them in preparing for the continental showcase, denting their prospects of an improved showing this time around.
Last time out, they were booted out in the group phase where they had amassed one point in a group that also had Al Ahly, Al Hilal and Etoile du Sahel.
FC Platinum spokesperson Chido Chizondo said: “We want to participate, but we will get guidance from PSL and Zifa on when we can start group training and obviously the government. We will only participate after getting clearance from the authorities.
“There is no clarity with regards to the issue of stadiums, which makes it more difficult as well.”
The miners have indicated their desire to play friendly matches before the tourney starts.
However, it remains to be seen if things will change for the better as the Warriors are also likely to resume the African Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers without playing friendly matches.
Zifa and the PSL’s silence has compounded the issue.
FC Platinum last played a competitive match in January when they beat Highlanders in the Castle Challenge Cup.
Other countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Tanzania and South Africa have since resumed league matches.