Zimbabwe: Shock, Sadness Engulf Domestic Football After Stadium Ban

27 February 2020

The domestic football family has called on Government and private sector to join hands in a concerted campaign to revamp the country's sporting infrastructure following the ban imposed by the Confederation of African Football on Zimbabwe's football stadiums.

Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister, Kirsty Coventry, who is currently on a tour of duty in Victoria Falls for the Sixth Session of the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development which ends today, was last night expected to issue a statement on the crisis.

The issue could not be discussed in Cabinet yesterday since Coventry was not available but Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, said Government had noted the setback.

"We will take note but, unfortunately, there was nothing discussed about that issue, it was not on the agenda. Presumably if the minister was around she could have raised it. But she was on some assignment in Victoria Falls," said Sibanda.

The Warriors were hoping to host defending African champions Algeria at Barbourfields next month.

But the Bulawayo venue, which was given a partial clearance when the CAF inspectors last toured in November 2019, has been added on the list of banned stadiums.

This means CAF inspectors have now struck all the country's stadiums, including the National Sports Stadium, off the roaster.

Zimbabwe are likely to relocate to South Africa for their home matches and this move may put their twin campaign in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers and 2022 World Cup qualifiers in jeopardy.

Warriors' legend, Japhet Mparutsa, who runs his Japhet Mparutsa Shortcat Foundation from his base in the United Kingdom, yesterday reacted with shock to the developments.

"Yes I am sad, as a Foundation we are sad. I spent nearly 10 years with the national team, and I had an unforgettable journey. I never thought that a day would come when our national team would be forced to play home games away from home because our stadiums are not good enough!

"We sat, watched and did not act when we saw stadiums falling apart. Gwanzura, Rufaro, Dzivarasekwa, NSS, Cam and Motor and now Barbourfields cannot host our national team.

"I cry for our football and I know my departed comrades in the football journey are turning in their graves, too. How can this happen?" said Mparutsa.

He said it wasn't time for the blame game.

"Some are blaming the councils who run these facilities. Some are blaming the Government for not caring enough about sport despite having a whole ministry responsible for this sector," he said.

"I think they are both to blame because they have failed to work together to ensure that our stadiums are fit for purpose.

"As a Foundation, I think the time is now to correct this situation. Government should make an effort to restore the nation's pride, the National Sports Stadium.

"Councils should work hard to restore all stadiums and the community grassroots pitches. We urge them to find partners who can provide funds so that the process moves fast."

Warriors' defender, Alec Mudimu, was disappointed by the CAF ruling but urged the nation to be focused on the assignment ahead of them.

"This is sad news for our country not being able to play in front of our own fans in such a huge and important game for Zimbabwe but, nevertheless, this doesn't take anything away from Zimbabwe. We do what we always do and fight to the very end, regardless the circumstances. We stay united and keep pushing forward towards our goals as a great nation that we are," said Mudimu.

Former Zimbabwe international, Alois Bunjira, urged the authorities to look urgently into the matter since the country's sporting infrastructure has been left to deteriorate over the years.

"Our own stadiums need to get fixed. Not just the international stadiums but all stadiums across the country. This, maybe, an alarm bell to start taking football seriously," said Bunjira.

Warriors' cheerleader Chris "Romario" Musekiwa said this was a big blow for the fans.

"Clubs have been paying stadium levies which should have been used to maintain our facilities and it seems those fees have been diverted elsewhere," he said.

"We call upon Government, through the Local Government Ministry, to set up emergency task force made of mechanical engineers, experts, and football leadership to ensure our grounds are refurbished to the expected CAF standards.

"I also think Ministry of Sports, ZIFA and PSL should have exerted pressure on our councils to act timeously after CAF warned us of an imminent ban on of our stadia."

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