NSS ghost haunts Warriors

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BY FORTUNE MBELE

THE Warriors are again facing  the grim prospect of playing their crucial Goup G Fifa World Cup qualifier against South Africa away from home after government failed to heed several Confederation of African Football (Caf) orders to renovate the National Sports Stadium.

The match is set for June.

Caf is likely to condemn the National Sports Stadium as unfit to host international matches.

In particular, Caf is angry over non-installation of bucket seats.

And if Caf moves the match outside Zimbabwe, it would be both an embarrassment for the country and a huge compromise on the team’s chances of qualifying to the next stage.

Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said an inspection was done on the stadium last Friday and a report subsequently sent to Caf on Sunday and the national football governing body awaits a response on whether the facility will be approved.

But after Zifa got a waiver to host the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, nothing has been done on the facility and last week, Caf fined Zifa
US$2 000 for the deplorable state of the stadium.

“The National Sports Stadium is yet to meet Caf standards. The stadium was inspected on April 23 in line with Caf requirements prior to the World Cup matches. We were required to send a stadium report with photographic and video evidence that the stadium meets Caf requirements. That report was sent to Caf on April 25 and Caf has notified us that it will revert to us in due course on whether the stadium is homologated to host World Cup qualifier,” Gwesela said.

He added that the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), which falls under the Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation ministry, was aware of the situation.

“The SRC has all the documentation from Caf and they are fully aware of what is at stake. As long as the stadium doesn’t meet required standards, we have been warned by Caf on several occasions to renovate the stadium or face the grim prospect of playing home games outside Zimbabwe,” Gwesela said.

Yesterday, Sports ministry principal director Benson Dube said a meeting was underway between government, the SRC and Zifa officials to map the way forward.

Dube, instead, took a swipe at Caf for expecting the National Sports Stadium to undergo a major facelift under stringent COVID-19 lockdown conditions.

“There is a meeting right now in the office involving the ministry, Zifa and SRC regarding that matter. The purpose of that meeting is to map the way forward,” he said.

“Caf knows there were COVID-19 lockdowns. How does it expect things to have been expedited during the lockdowns? Companies were closed and some are still closed and expectations were things were going to be delayed.”

But Gwesela said he was unaware of the alleged meeting.

Earlier in the month, Dube said the tender for the installation of the bucket seats at the National Sports Stadium had been adjudicated and what was left was for the procurement.

The stadium is owned by government.

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