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Warriors banned from playing in Zim

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Staff Writer

IN A sad indictment of local stadia, the Warriors – Zimbabwe’s national football team – has been forbidden to host any home international matches with immediate effect.

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) yesterday released an adverse report on Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo which was the only venue left deemed fit for international games.

The National Sports Stadium and Mandava Stadium had already been struck off the roster of venues capable of hosting continental matches.

However, the 30 000-seater stadium located in the City of Kings and Queens was deemed also unfit.

This means the Warriors will have to play their upcoming home game against Algeria in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifier elsewhere.

Zimbabwe is also supposed to host Zambia in their final Group H qualifier in September while another home 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifier is scheduled for October.

All these matches will now likely to be staged in neighbouring South Africa or Zambia after Caf’s delivered the hammer blow yesterday.

This will be costly to an already cash-strapped Zifa as they will need to provide air tickets, accommodation and other logistics for the team on foreign soil.

“Zifa would like to inform the football fraternity and the nation that it has received correspondence from Caf that our stadiums do not meet Caf standards to host international matches.

“Consequently, Caf has made a decision to bar Zifa from using local stadiums in all upcoming international matches.

“Meanwhile, we have also started the process of looking for an alternative venue in neighbouring countries to host our upcoming matches,” Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said in a statement yesterday.

For many years, Zifa, the Premier soccer League and clubs have been trying hard to persuade the stadia owners to upgrade their facilities so that they can meet Caf standards.

The National Sports Stadium falls under the purview of the Ministry of Local Government, Mandava is owned by the Zvishavane City Council while Bulawayo City Council are the proprietors of Barbourfields.

Some of the issues raised by Caf when condemning these stadia include the fact that the changing rooms are in a deplorable state while the playing surfaces were bumpy.

There are also no proper media, medical and broadcasting facilities while exit, bay and emergency signs are non-existent at these stadia.

Meanwhile, Zifa is hoping the venue owners will implement all the Caf recommendations earnestly in order to remedy the situation.

“The decision by Caf comes against the background of a Caf stadium inspection which was conducted in November 2019 and the subsequent inspection report circulated on the 1st of December which stipulated areas of improvement for our three stadiums, Barbourfields, Mandava and the National Sports Stadium, to be fully homologated.

“While Mandava and NSS were completely struck off the roster, Barbourfields was provisionally certified on the condition that issues raised in the inspection report would be addressed.

“Stadium authorities were notified of Caf’s position and the urgent nature of the situation at hand. To date, neither of the three stadium authorities has requested us to invite Caf for another inspection, a position which Caf has said led to the decision to bar all three stadiums from hosting international matches.

“While Zifa is engaging Caf with a view to appeal this decision, we have asked stadium authorities to send us commitment letters detailing timelines on work that needs to be done before Caf comes for another inspection. Once we receive such commitment, we will send to Caf,” Gwesela said.

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