Football returns home

03 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
Football returns home

The Sunday Mail

Langton Nyakwenda

THE last time Rufaro Stadium hosted a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match was on December 14, 2019, when Harare City and Ngezi Platinum Stars played out a goalless draw.

Since then, the country’s ceremonial home of football, also famed for hosting the nation’s first independence celebrations and hoisting of the Zimbabwe flag, closed its doors to the nation’s biggest sport.

The Covid-19 pandemic followed and the local Premiership was suspended — while the stadium also suffered severe deterioration. It became an eyesore and the only logical move was to close it.

The 61-year-old Mbare facility has been under renovation and now set for a return after 1 548 days of closure.

A high-profile 2024 season-opening clash between 2016 champions CAPS United and the 2015 kings Chicken Inn will mark the reopening of Rufaro on Sunday.

The ZIFA First Instance Board (FIB) is expected to conduct a final inspection at Rufaro early this week before presenting a report on the status of all the stadiums across the country by mid-week.

But the fans, coaches and administrators are already relishing football’s imminent return to its home.

FIB chairman Sharif Mussa and his committee have been on a whirlwind tour of stadiums across the country.

The FIB  also includes Mussa’s fellow CAF general coordinators  Violet Jubane and Gaylord Madhunguza, veteran match official Wilfred Mukuna, ex-player Terrence Malunga and PSL’s Elisha Mandireva.

They have toured the Green Fuel Arena in Chisumbanje, Nyamhunga in Kariba, Gibbo in Triangle, Sakubva in Mutare, Bata in Gweru, Colliery in Hwange, Mandava in Zvishavane and Pfupajena in Chegutu, as well as Bulawayo venues Barbourfields and Luveve.

Although Mussa will present the final report on stadiums by midweek, the experienced and vastly travelled administrator revealed that most stadiums toured could be accorded temporary homologation.

Save for Gibbo, which Mussa said had some serious issues, and Pfupajena, declared a non-starter as it is still to be renovated, all the stadiums that were subjected to a final inspection are set to be homologated.

It means there will be Premiership action in Mutare, Chisumbanje, Kariba, Bulawayo and Gweru.

Harare’s two stadiums Rufaro and Heart in Waterfalls, as well as Wadzanai in Shamva, will be inspected again from tomorrow.

“We cannot stop football from being played in a stadium where we see there is progress and it meets the basic requirements for safety and security of players, fans and officials,” Mussa said yesterday.

“But we will not compromise on the safety and security of players, officials and the fans just to certify a stadium.

“You can’t just have a pitch there and you say there’s good grass. It’s more than just that.

“If football has to be stopped because the very basic things are not met, then it will be stopped,” he said.

The former Warriors manager saluted the Harare City Council for their efforts in resuscitating Rufaro.

“From what we have seen, Rufaro should be in time for the start of the Premier Soccer League.

“They were working on the ablution facilities and there have been some remarkable improvements done by the city council.

“We salute them for their efforts.

“If you really measure it all against the whole criteria of club licensing, there are a lot of things that are still found short on the part of the clubs and the stadiums.

“However, we have to make sure safety and security concerns are met to the basic standard, then we can say there is temporary homologation and we have time frames to work on the other areas so that the infrastructure is up to standard.”

He added: “As for Rufaro and Heart, we did preliminary inspections and we saw certain grey areas which they said they would sort out.

“In the next few days, they will give us clearance to go and do the final inspection for the very basic things so that we can temporarily homologate them.

“Hopefully, we should have the final report on all stadiums during the week.

“As it looks, from our visits to the stadiums, most of them will be temporarily homologated.”

Mussa also gave an update on the much- talked-about Wadzanai, which is home to Simba Bhora.

“We are also going to do Wadzanai early in the week.

“From what I am hearing, they have made huge progress there.”

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