A rebirth of Rufaro Stadium is most welcome

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Rufaro Stadium

WHILE there is reason to applaud the Harare City Council’s decision to grant Sakunda Holdings a long-term lease to refurbish and manage Rufaro Stadium, Zimbabweans would be forgiven to query why this was not done many years ago.

An earlier decision would have saved the stadium which has now been reduced to a waste dumping area.

Procrastination has always been a serious problem for football management and general governance in Zimbabwe.

It had been clear, over many years, that Rufaro was deteriorating and it was fast losing its glamour as the ceremonial home of football.

Instead of rising up to the challenge, authorities buried their heads in the sand until the stadium was banned from hosting local Premier Soccer League matches.

The result has been disastrous, Harare-based teams such as Black Rhinos ended up switching to Sakubva Stadium, some 260km away, to host their home matches.

Dynamos, Caps United, Herentals and  Harare City have been forced to use the National Sports Stadium, away from their home ground.

This is the highest level of mismanagement.

Yet other stadiums managed by corporates like the Baobab Stadium used by Ngezi Platinum Stars and Mandava, the home ground of champions FC Platinum are in a much better shape.

Surely, the Harare City Council should have smelt the rat early, admitted it has failed and given private players the right to manage the stadium.

The same goes to many other facilities which are crumbling around the country.

These glaring shortcomings have impacted on the careers of several athletes who are supposed to use the venues.

Now that Harare City Council has greenlighted the lease of Rufaro to Sakunda Holdings, the question is: What is it that has changed now and why didn’t the council do this a long time ago, especially considering this came a few days after the city fathers had invited corporates to approach them directly for partnerships after snubbing a proposal by Harare giants Dynamos, backed by Sakunda Holdings?

Sakunda Holdings is the major sponsor of two of the country’s biggest clubs — Dynamos and Highlanders — and the latest development is set to benefit DeMbare as well while Harare City Council is also set to get  a reasonable share of the cake.

According to its proposal, Sakunda Holding’s vision is to drive community development in Mbare by establishing a Fifa-accredited stadium for use by Dynamos and other local clubs.

But this is also likely to make it inaccessible to many other teams that would want to use the facility as charges are likely to be beyond their reach. What is important though is that refurbishment of the facility will be of benefit to even the national team and clubs that participate in international club assignments like Caf Champions League and Caf Confederation Cup.

Whatever the case, however, the refurbishment of Rufaro Stadium must be allowed to proceed as early as possible. Zimbabwe cannot afford to watch this historic structure crumble to ruins.