23 March 2019

Zimbabwe: 'Stadium Stand-Off Unfortunate'

The Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing has described the debacle which resulted in the Warriors being shut out of the National Sports Stadium on Thursday as unfortunate.

The Warriors were denied the opportunity to train at the facility by officials manning the stadium following a stand-off between ZIFA and the ministry over the disbursement of their share from the gate takings.

As a result, the national team failed to train on the home turf during the preparations for the clash against the Red Devils.

It's the first time the Warriors have never trained at their home ground going into a home fixture of an AFCON game.

The stand-off sparked outrage from Zimbabweans across the board, including the Minister of Youth, Arts, Sport and Recreation Kirsty Coventry.

"The kind of behaviour that happened yesterday is disgusting. Our national players need to be prioritised.

"Federations and stadium management need to understand that without our athletes, there will be no federations and no stadiums.

"I will be getting to the bottom of this," said Coventry on her Twitter account.

Principal director in the Local Government Ministry, which runs the stadium, Joseph Mhakayakora, yesterday said the Warriors should never have been barred from training.

"We heard about the incident and it was quite unfortunate that it had to go to that extent," he said.

"In fact, when the news came, we immediately directed that the team should train at the ground while things were being worked out.

"We had a meeting with the ZIFA chief executive (Joseph Mamutse) here on March 4 and then with the technical director (Wilson Mtekede) the following day and they clearly explained the standards they expected to see at the ground.

"We have always given football, especially our national team, the priority to use the facility. That is why the Warriors have trained and played at the National Sports Stadium several times, even without meeting their obligations.

"But the only difference now, probably, was that the tickets are being sold online and I understand our guys requested access to the process so that they can be able to account for the 12 percent royalty for the purposes of Government audit.

"ZIFA did not respond to that. It's important to note that the money paid through stadium bookings is used to maintain the facility for it to be in good condition.

"The stadium does not receive a grant from the Treasury.

"And, because they always come at the last minute, they were given a contract on Tuesday, but they never returned, only to pitch up at the stadium on the fateful day for training without any documentation.

"So, it could be that the officials at the ground acted according to procedure since there is a committee that runs the stadium in accordance with the constitution. But a directive was still given for the Warriors to train."

Former national team players Cephas Chimedza and Alois Bunjira said the Warriors were greatly inconvenienced by the boardroom misunderstanding.

The team yesterday trained at Yadah Complex and might get their only chance this morning since the afternoon is reserved for the visiting team.

"Zimbabwe Warriors are representing the interests of Zimbabwe people, flying our flag.

"For, whoever is responsible for the NSS to deny the team entry to train is just a bit unpatriotic. Yes, the leaders might be at fault, but deal with them later without punishing the team," said Chimedza.

In a Facebook post, Bunjira said the ministry needed to consider the importance of the occasion.

"We have a task at hand for the nation. Couldn't the matter be discussed and solved while the national team was training so that we don't jeopardise our chances of qualification?" said Bunjira.

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