Govt skirts stadium crisis. . .as Warriors find home in Rwanda

Speaking in Parliament, Jesaya said the ministry had not received any communication from the Zifa normalisation committee that the country was unable to host international matches.

Deputy minister of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture Emily Jesaya has professed ignorance about the country’s stadium crisis, which will see the senior men national team host Nigeria in Rwanda in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Zimbabwe has not had a stadium fit to host international matches for the past three years amid promises from the government to upgrade football stadia to meet international standards.

Caf banned the National Sports Stadium from hosting international games in February 2020 after inspecting the facility at the end of 2019 and also extended the embargo to Barbourfields Stadium and Mandava Stadium as they stipulated areas of improvement for the three to be fully homologated.

But still nothing has been done to improve the state of football facilities.

Speaking in Parliament, Jesaya said the ministry had not received any communication from the Zifa normalisation committee that the country was unable to host international matches.

“At the moment I want to inform the house that the Fifa council lifted the suspension that we had on our football and imposed a normalisation committee, which is handling football matters in this country,’ she said.

“At the moment they have not officially written to us as a ministry to say that the country will host a match in Rwanda, but when they have written to us we will come back to this committee to inform you. At the moment we are yet to receive an official update from the normalisation committee.”

A bit of work was done on the National Sports Stadium two years ago on the pitch, changing rooms, doping rooms before everything stopped.

Sports minister Kirsty Coventry has been on record countless times promising to prioritise sporting facilities, but very little has been done thus far.

In July when Fifa lifted the suspension on Zimbabwe football Coventry assured the nation that the country would be able to host international matches.

“There has been on-going works (at the National Sports Stadium). The electronic ticketing system is now in the country waiting to be installed. Water reticulation is in progress and the feasibility study for the entire area not just the NSS, but grounds around it are being undertaken at the moment. It should be wrapped up in the next two to three weeks," she said at the time.

“This has also been explained to Fifa when they visited and they also went and visited the NSS. The study is being undertaken by a South African legitimate company that built and renovated soccer stadiums for the 2010 World Cup.”

But the ministry has gone mum on the progress at the stadium with the World Cup qualifiers fast approaching.

Zifa has had to approach neighbouring countries in search of suitable options to play home games with earlier indications suggesting that Botswana would be the Warriors’ second home before they settled for Rwanda. In a show of lack of commitment from the government to rehabilitate sporting infrastructure Finance minister Mthuli Ncube allocated a paltry $1.2 billion in local currency when he unveiled a $4,5 trillion 2023 budget in November last year.

With the official exchange rate pegged around $650 per US$1, the total amount allocated was roughly US$1.8 million.

According to Ncube, the National Sports Stadium rehabilitation was on the priority list.

“With regards to sport and recreation, $1,2 billion has been set aside for the rehabilitation and upgrading of sports facilitates and recreational centres, with the aim of modernisation to conform to international standards," he said at the time.

“Some of the priorities include the National Sports Stadium, Khumalo and Magamba hockey stadiums and refurbishment of Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex swimming pools and general-purpose halls.”

Zimbabwe are in Group C of the World Cup qualifiers alongside Nigeria, Rwanda, Benin, South Africa and Lesotho.

They kick-off their campaign against Rwanda away from home on November 13 before hosting Nigeria a week later.

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