By Petros Kausiyo
In a rare and audacious bid that is set to transform the face of sport in this country, Harare property mogul Philip Chiyangwa has revealed plans to build a multi-million- dollar modern stadium in Harare.
The Philip Chiyangwa Stadium will be built on a 16-hectare plot in Harare South’s Stoneridge.
It is envisaged that the facility will have a hotel and a shopping mall adjacent to it.
Chiyangwa, who is also the Cosafa president, revealed that the construction of the stadium will be a fulfilment of a dream he had since June 2011 when his company – Pinnacle Properties – secured a permit for the land from the Harare City Council.
Interestingly, the plan to build the stadium was hatched four years before Chiyangwa shot to football prominence when he won the Zifa presidency in December 2015.
A year later, he became the leader of the Southern African football bloc – Cosafa – which is the Confederation of African Football’s biggest zonal grouping of 14 countries.
Chiyangwa told The Sunday Mail Sport that construction of the stadium will commence as soon as the relevant authorities approve his plans.
“I have had this dream since 2011 when the Harare City Council issued a permit for the land. l intend to leave a legacy.
“In terms of sporting and entertainment facilities, Harare South has nothing. This facility will change that,” said Chiyangwa.
“We are sparing nothing in ensuring that we get a top of the range multi-purpose stadium.
“After realising the challenges we are facing as a country with regards to stadiums, we have decided to accelerate this project.
“We are being condemned and banned by CAF at a time when we should be redeveloping our facilities and constructing new ones. There is urgent need to do something about the old stadiums, most of which are now dilapidated. We do not have a lot of state of the art multi-purpose venues in the mould of Moses Mabhida in Durban, which can stage boxing, athletics, musical concerts and conferences. We are playing our part in trying to resolve that challenge,’’ he said.
Chiyangwa said the decision to make the facility a multi-purpose one was inspired by his previous adventures in promoting boxing, music and wrestling.
Over the years, the flamboyant businessman hogged the limelight for hosting pop icon Michael Jackson, rhumba giant Pepe Kalle and World Wrestling Federation’s Bushwackers.
He also promoted a host of Zimbabwean boxing legends, including the pair of Proud “Kilimanjaro’’ Chinembiri and Gilbert Josamu (both late).
Although Chiyangwa could not be drawn into revealing his partners, Chiyangwa said a number of stakeholders will be involved in the project, including Government.
European football body UEFA, who are on a crusade to help build the capacities of the African game, are understood to be in line to play a key role in the project. This follows the UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin’s private visit to Zimbabwe during the Christmas holidays.
Ceferin said UEFA is prepared to assist Africa with capacity building and providing sports infrastructure in appreciation of the vast contribution made by the continent’s stars in shaping and illuminating European football.
“We know very well that African players are playing an important role in European football, so we owe something to the other parts of the world, not just Europe. I don’t know if we have done something here yet. But I have already spoken to my people and l will connect with Phillip Chiyangwa, who is well known in European football.
“I think we can help quite a lot. Our principles are that we don’t send money anywhere. We send experts, we help in building infrastructure.
“But we don’t just invest and trust me, football-wise, this is the best organisation that you can have; not because of me and not since l am here but because football in Europe generates 85 percent of all the football in the world,” Ceferin said.
Ceferin’s family and colleagues visited various tourist resorts, included the majestic Victoria Falls, Matopos, Binga, Hwange and the Eastern Highlands. Chiyangwa also hosted the delegation.
Prior to hosting Ceferin, Chiyangwa had a high profile international delegation led by Fifa president Gianni Infantino, CAF president Ahmad (then a CAF presidential candidate) and several of the continent’s football associations’ heads at his birthday bash in Harare in 2017.
Chiyangwa’s initiative, a rare feat at individual level, mirrors what national hero Eric Gwanzura and his brother Fanuel did during the colonial era when they built Gwanzura Stadium in Highfield, before the then Salisbury City seized control of the facility.
Sadly, Gwanzura has since been closed down as it is now an eyesore due to years of neglect by the Harare City Council.
Harare projects manager Evans Munaku, who is finalising the technical drawings of the Philip Chiyangwa Stadium, believes that once the plans are approved, construction could take up to 24 months.
“The structure is designed to be a multi-disciplinary sports facility which endeavours to bridge urban social divides through sport and recreation. Therefore, it accommodates various sporting categories, from extreme sports like skateboarding, indoor rock climbing to water sports like swimming and diving, as well as track and field sports like soccer and athletics.
“The facility is designed to accommodate up to 40 000 people.
“In addition, all levels are accessible to disabled persons by way of the integrated ramp system in the design.
“The facility houses other non-sporting functions such as a sports academy, with lecturing theatres, seminar rooms and conferencing rooms. There is a retail shopping facility and a health and beauty spar accommodated, as well as a sports betting and sports bar facility.
“For those wishing to experience a five-star sporting experience, the main arena is uniquely designed to accommodate VIP viewing booths.
“To top it off, the structure offers a social hub for interaction with full WiFi connectivity for digital gamers. The structure site is on a 16-hector plot and has a footprint of 40 000 square meters. From approval, construction should be completed within 24 months,’’ Munaku said. The Sunday Mail