BY FORTUNE MBELE
GOVERNMENT is desperately trying to avert a potentially embarrassing situation where the Warriors could be forced to play their home Fifa 2022 World Cup qualifiers out of the country due to failure to complete renovations at the National Sports Stadium (NSS) as was demanded by the Confederation of African Football (Caf).
While Zimbabwe was allowed to host its Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers at the facility, Caf warned that the country might lose the right if the demands are not met.
One of the main outstanding issues is the bucket seats and yesterday, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) said the seats would have been installed by the time the qualifiers begin in June.
Speaking to NewsDay Sport yesterday, Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation ministry principal director Benson Dube said government was working flat out to make sure the installation of bucket seats was expedited and other outstanding issues like electronic access, a venue operations centre and pitch improvement, were dealt with in time.
Dube blamed the delay in the completion of works to the COVID-19-induced lockdowns, which he said put an embargo on progress.
“Everything is processed. What is left is for the bucket seats to be procured and installed. The tender has been adjudicated. It is only procurement that is outstanding for now. Our wish is everything can be expedited so that we finish the work in good time,” he said.
“As government, we have done our part. We only wait for the procurement and the installation. That will be done by the company that wins the tender. COVID-19 has been our biggest enemy. Were it not for COVID-19, we would be talking about something else.”
The NSS hosted two Afcon matches — the Warriors 2-2 draw with Algeria held last November and their Monday 2-0 loss to Zambia.
Both matches were played before an empty stadium.
Information minister Monica Mustvangwa on Tuesday insinuated that Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo had been homologated after it hosted youth and women’s teams.
Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said Barbourfields could only host youth and women national teams, adding that the stadia situation had, in fact, not improved.
“I am not aware of this clearance by Caf (on BF). Only the National Sports Stadium has provisional homologation, which we could lose if we don’t complete renovations on time,” he said.
“As you are all aware, we have temporary homologation for National Sports Stadium in Harare. That is the only stadium that is provisionally authorised by Caf to host international matches.
“Caf has reminded us in previous correspondence that we need to speed up renovations at the National Sports Stadium and ensure that the stadium is brought to required Caf standards.
“The issue of individual seats, the issue of venue operations centre, the issue of electronic access, Caf have also encouraged us to improve the pitch itself.”
Zimbabwe was drawn in Group G for the World Cup qualifiers with Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia.
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