The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe has to remain positive despite the decision by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to maintain a ban on the country’s stadia, ZIFA board member Sugar Chagonda has said.
He believes the continental body’s stance should instead spur the country to work even harder. Chagonda, who heads the marketing portfolio of the ZIFA board, said although it was disappointing to note that CAF were not yet satisfied with the refurbishment being done, Zimbabweans could not afford to give up.
CAF wrote to ZIFA on Friday indicating that the ban on the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields remained in place.
“ZIFA have received the report concerning preliminary inspections done on the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields in March.
“The report further confirms that the two facilities do not meet minimum standards expected by FIFA and CAF to host Warriors’ matches.
“Both stadia are still barred from hosting senior men’s competitions, but they are approved to host youth and women’s competitions.
“The inspection done in March was meant to provide ZIFA and stadium authorities with guidelines on areas that require attention before the final round of inspections scheduled for June and July 2020,” read a statement from ZIFA.
Government and Bulawayo City Council have since been notified of the recommendations made by CAF inspectors, including the urgent need to attend to the outstanding issues.
It is believed that once the refurbishments are complete, ZIFA will invite CAF to conduct another inspection between June 15 and July 20 to determine whether or not the facilities can host senior men’s competitions.
ZIFA added: “Our local stadium inspection team, the First Instance Body, will conduct weekly inspections to ensure that refurbishments at National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields Stadium are in line with the expectations of CAF and FIFA.
“We appeal to all stakeholders involved to expedite the process of upgrading our facilities to the required standard so that we avert the grim possibility of playing our home matches abroad.
“In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, we encourage everyone to observe recommended healthy habits regarding staying safe while also combating the spread of the deadly virus.”
Yesterday, Chagonda said stakeholders need to partner ZIFA to ensure the venues are certified to host international matches again.
There was need to ramp up efforts to spruce up the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields, he said.
“The preliminary report from CAF must not be seen to be inducing a sense of shock in Zimbabweans, but we need to embrace it and take it to mean that we must just redouble efforts aimed at ensuring that by the time the coronavirus mayhem is behind us, this country will not be found wanting.
“As ZIFA, we would not want to be forced to host a Warriors game in another country. Should that happen, by any chance, that will be sad and very unfortunate,” he said.
“Even those churches and worshippers who normally fill our stadia praising the Lord, they can come on board providing the much-needed resources so that we upgrade our facilities. It is not time for the blame game, but it is that moment where we need to combine efforts for the good of our sport and country at large. Tikarara nezamu mukanwa we will be caught napping soon, and . . . as the leadership, history will judge us harshly in the near future,’’ Chagonda said.
The fact that CAF had not only suspended the Zimbabwean venues but gave guidelines on what needed to be done, he added, should help in expediting the ongoing refurbishment work.
He said other sporting disciplines were also welcome to chip in with expertise and resources in helping Zimbabwe meet the CAF requirements.
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Deputy Minister Tinoda Machakaire has also consistently vowed that his ministry, which has now been handed control of the National Sports Stadium, would pull out all the stops to ensure the Warriors do not suffer the ignominy of playing their home matches in a foreign country. “We cannot be seen to be going to play football in South Africa as if we are not organised . . . Anyway, let me say that we will never allow our football games to be played outside our borders when we have grounds in Zimbabwe,” Machakaire was quoted as saying recently.
“However, inasmuch as CAF has banned our stadia, we are working around the clock to make sure the situation is rectified, and everything comes out well. “We (ministry) will also try to and see if there are more things that were not done correctly and fix those, too,” Machakaire said.