The Sunday Mail
Petros Kausiyo Sports Editor
ZIFA are confident the Confederation of African Football will this time sanction the use of local stadiums for international matches and have lauded the Government for refurbishing Barbourfields and the National Sports Stadium during the Covid-19-induced lockdown.
The association would have to convince CAF that they now have a stadium that is fit to host the high-profile 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Zimbabwe and Algeria on November 9.
CAF’s executive committee on Thursday ratified the decision of their emergency committee to resume the Nations Cup qualifiers in November. During their virtual meeting, CAF executive set new dates for the Africa Nations Championships (CHAN) tournament which was postponed due to Covid-19.
The CHAN tournament, originally pencilled in for April 4-25 in Cameroon, will now take place from January 16 to February 7, 2021 in the same country and the Warriors will play the hosts in the opening game of the competition in Yaoundé. But more worryingly for ZIFA at the moment is the venue to stage the Warriors-Desert Foxes showdown.
There was however, a huge degree of optimism from ZIFA yesterday after their First Instance Board toured Barbourfields to assess progress.
The FIB will this week tour the National Sports amid strong indications that it is the stadium the association will register with CAF as their preferred venue for the November clash between the Warriors and the Algerians. ZIFA communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela told The Sunday Mail Sport after a tour of Barbourfields that they were optimistic of getting the CAF nod this time around. Gwesela said ZIFA were grateful for the work that has been undertaken by the Government. “We have been requested by CAF to re-inspect Barbourfields and National Sports Stadium ahead of upcoming AFCON qualifier match against Algeria.“
CAF basically want to assess what progress has been done since the last inspection before they make a decision.
“But it is our considered opinion that Government and the Sport and Recreation Commission have done very well to ensure that the two facilities are spruced up and notably the National Sports Stadium.
“It is our hope that outstanding items like bucket seats and electronic access will be completed in due course,’’ Gwesela said. The ZIFA spokesman said Government had demonstrated commitment to speed up work at the National Stadium by flighting advertisements for the installation of bucket seats.
“The Government has already flighted a tender to that effect. We thank the Government and SRC for such hard work and for ensuring that our facilities are brought to the required FIFA and CAF standards,’’ Gwesela said.
The ZIFA inspection comes as CAF president Ahmad Ahmad on Thursday indicated that the continental body would not hesitate to make the Warriors play on foreign soil if none of the local venues meet their required standards.
Ahmad however, told our sister publication The Chronicle that a switch to a foreign country would only be a last resort.
The CAF boss also urged Zimbabwean authorities to work speedily on the country’s stadiums and insisted that they would not compromise on standards to accommodate countries that turn a blind eye to their facilities, Zimbabwe included.
He said the onus lay with the authorities to work on their facilities ahead of pending international matches. Ahmad said he was aware that some stadiums in Zimbabwe were either owned by the State or local authorities and it was therefore prudent that they, in consultation with football authorities, expedited the issue of ensuring the facilities were up to expected international standards.
“Look we take no pleasure in having a national team play its home games away from home. It is my hope that authorities there (Zimbabwe) quickly work on what is required and we will then send a specialist team to do the inspections and if, and this is what I am hoping for too, they find the facilities to be up to standard, we will not hesitate to have a stadium certified and your teams enjoy home ground advantage.
“However, in the same vein, if they are still below what we expect, be rest assured that as CAF we shall be left with no option, but to take that painful, but necessary route of taking away your home advantage. But let me be clear that this is not what we want,” said Ahmad. Before Covid-19 conspired to halt international sport in March, ZIFA faced the ignominy of staging the Warriors against Algeria encounter in South Africa following the CAF ban on Zimbabwe’s grounds.
Former ZIFA board member Piraishe Mabhena chairs the FIB which had been steadfast even before the CAF ban that the Government and the municipalities needed to improve the quality of stadiums across the country.
This came after many of the venues around the cities and towns such as Rufaro, Gwanzura, Ascot and Nyamhunga failed to even meet the basic standards to be certified fit to host Premier Soccer League matches.
Mabhena’s committee now has until September 20 to submit it’s own inspection report to CAF.