Zimbabwe: Govt Confident Warriors Will Host Desert Foxes At Home

A worker breaks up matted turf to help with drainage at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on March 3, 2020.

YOUTH, Sport, Arts and Recreation Deputy Minister, Tino Machakaire, is confident the Warriors will play their next AFCON qualifier against Algeria at home following the intervention by authorities.

Machakaire, who was part of a huge Government entourage that toured the National Sports Stadium yesterday for assessment, emerged out of the meetings presided over by Local Government and National Housing Minister, July Moyo, confident of a positive outcome.

Zimbabwe are scheduled to host Algeria on March 31 in the reverse fixture of the AFCON 2021 qualifier.

But the Warriors faced the possibility of playing their home matches on foreign soil after ZIFA were tasked by CAF to look for an alternative venue following a blanket condemnation of the country's stadiums.

"We have just toured the ground and we have seen for ourselves what needs to be done. But at this point in time we are still trying to tie all the loose ends," Machakaire said.

"There is going to be another meeting in the evening (yesterday) and that's when we will have a comprehensive statement.

"What we want to do is to make sure that the standards that have been set by CAF are met.

"I am sure, with all the commitment that we are getting from the stakeholders, we will be able to meet certain standards required by CAF so that they can come and re-inspect.

"Everything is now under control. We are working on it 24/7. Chances are very high that we will meet the deadlines, there is no need for panic.

"Today (yesterday) we were on the ground by 6:30am and we will be back again in the afternoon and then in the evening for the final meeting of the day.

"Of course, there is some work to be done and we want to make sure that everything is done properly. It's possible the next home game will be played here in Zimbabwe."

Government yesterday revealed they have also taken up the responsibility to assist Bulawayo City Council with the renovations needed at Barbourfields.

This means the Warriors are most likely to play their home game, as was originally scheduled, at Barbourfields.

In future, there is a possibility of Government joining hands with the other local authorities in the country to revamp facilities.

According to the CAF report, Barbourfields was the closest to meeting the required standards and, with more resources channelled into the project, it is possible to meet the CAF time-frames.

The Warriors need the home advantage against the star-studded Algerians who are set to send their array of their Europe-based stars, under the watch of 2019 AFCON-winning coach Djamel Belmadi, for the battle.

ZIFA have since appealed to CAF for the reversal of the stadium ban while contingency plans were being made for an alternative venue.

South Africa was being touted to provide temporary refuge but it appears the game could be played at home if the authorities manage to convince CAF.

Bulawayo City Council Town Clerk Christopher Dube told our sister paper, The Chronicle, that the decision by CAF came at a time when they had started the process of revamping the facility to meet the required standards.

"What delayed the process of improving certain things at Barbourfields Stadium was that there were processes that needed to be followed that include approval of the budget, which was done a couple of weeks ago," said Dube.

The National Sports Stadium needs more work from the turf which was condemned because of lack of maintenance.

The giant stadium has fallen short when it comes to the need for it to have bucket seats, turnstiles and surface maintenance equipment.

The lack of bucket seats, turnstiles that will guarantee the safe movement of fans, in the event of an emergency, the bumpy surface and poor state of dressing rooms, doping rooms and the first aid room have been highlighted by CAF as part of the reasons the country's main stadium failed successive tests.

An official, who refused to be named, said the stadium got to this state due to the high costs of maintenance.

"The big issue about the stadium has been the lack of adequate resources. But Government is determined to get everything back on course.

"We are going to fix everything including the turf and all the other facilities you find here to make sure that this stadium benefits not just football but all types of sports.

"We are confident international matches will be played here again. Everything will be attended to. All the rooms mentioned in the CAF report, like the doping rooms and first aid rooms, are there and they only need soft furnishings.

"Then the other things like wi-fi will be installed as well," said the official.

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