BY HENRY MHARA
THE 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) home qualifier between Zimbabwe and Zambia could be played outside the country if the Confederations of African Football (Caf) deems that local stadiums have not been refurbished to set standards.
Zimbabwe have two stadiums, the National Sports Stadium in Harare and Barbourfields in Bulawayo registered to host international matches.
However, the two stadia were both banned from hosting international matches two years ago due to the deteriorating facilities.
At the time, Caf told the Zimbabwe government to refurbish the two facilities to meet minimum requirements to host international matches.
Some of the features that were condemned include the playing turf, turnstiles and the absence of bucket seats, doping and first aid rooms, media tribunes, lighting and poor ablution facilities.
The country was, however, given a reprieve when the Warriors were allowed to host Algeria in an Afcon qualifier in November last year at the National Sports Stadium, even without completing the refurbishments. Zimbabwe were on their way to host Algeria outside the country before it was reprieved.
Caf this week requested evidence from Zifa to prove that the stadium has been refurbished to meet minimum requirements for it to host Chipolopolo in the final qualifier at the end of March.
The continental soccer governing body wants the video and pictorial evidence tomorrow.
“In reference to the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations 2021 Qualifiers (Matchday five and six), kindly note that all matches must be played in stadiums homologated by Caf for use in this phase of the competition,” Caf wrote to Zifa on Tuesday this week.
“With the objective of verifying the current state of your proposed venue and in order to ensure the use of quality stadia during the aforementioned qualifier matches, your association is requested to send to Caf a full stadium inspection report including photo and video evidence of the venue where your home match will take place for the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 Qualifiers (Matchday five and six).”
“The stadium inspection should be conducted by the MA Club Licensing Manager and the filled stadium inspection report, including the photo and video evidence of each sector of the stadium must be provided to the Caf Club Licensing Department (Club.email@example.com) no later than February 5.”
Zimbabwe, second in Group H log standings, travel to Botswana in the penultimate qualifier on March 22 (matchday five), before hosting Zambia a week later in matchday six.
“Kindly note that failure to comply with this obligation by the set deadline may result in a fine in accordance with the competition regulations, while further disciplinary sanctions may incur on your federation,” Caf added.
“Upon receiving the above-mentioned documents and reports, and based on the actual information provided to Caf, a decision will be taken concerning the venue for your upcoming Africa Cup of Nations 2021 Qualifiers.
“In case the proposed stadium does not fulfil the minimum requirement for this phase of the competition, your national team may be required to play their matches in an approved stadium in another country.
“Once again, we emphasise that quality stadiums are fundamental to the development and progress of African football, hence the regulations will be implemented rigidly by Caf.
“We appreciate your continuous support in helping us raise the level of our African football with improved facilities as we continue to gain exposure to a global audience.”
The government has fixed some of the things at the National Sports Stadium that were demanded by Caf, except for the bucket seats. The Harare stadium has been earmarked to host the Zambia clash.
Failure to install the bucket seats has been blamed on travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Zifa said they will inspect the stadium today before sending the requested evidence to Caf.
It’s, however, unlikely that Caf will insist on the bucket seats since the match is likely to be played in an empty stadium due to COVID-19.
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