By Ricky Zililo
Following the postponement of the 2021 Total Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that were scheduled for March 25-31 due to the coronavirus pandemic, local fans have challenged authorities to work with speed and possibly ask for re-inspection of Zimbabwe’s stadiums.
Caf inspectors Derek Blackensee and South African football legend Mark Fish completed the first-leg of assessing Zimbabwe’s stadia with a visit to Barbourfields Stadium on Friday, a day after holding a similar assessment of the National Sports Stadium in Harare.
The inspection was in preparation for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers that kick-off in September and the Caf team will return for its final assessment in August.
Last week Caf rejected Zifa’s request for re-inspection of Barbourfields Stadium and the National Sports Stadium, insisting that the association submits a foreign venue for the Warriors’ Afcon qualifier against Algeria.
The Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association (ZNSSA) has urged the Government, Bulawayo City Council and Zifa to work with speed in refurbishing Barbourfields and the National Sports Stadium.
“I think the cancellation of games due to coronavirus is a blessing in disguise because now we can finish renovations at our stadiums and maybe Zifa can ask for another inspection.
“We understand work is being done at the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields, with reports suggesting the renovations are going smoothly and there’s no harm in Zifa making efforts to get Caf to inspect the facilities with the hope of bringing Algeria here,” said Carlmarx Nkomo, ZNSSA vice-chairman.
He said they want to watch their beloved Warriors on home soil and would be happy if massive work can be done on the two stadiums during the postponement.
Besides cancellation of Afcon qualifiers, the Chan championships set for Cameroon next month also hang in balance with Caf set to send its medical committee to assess the situation.
The Under-20 Women’s World Cup qualifiers set for the end of this month have also been postponed until further notice.
Zimbabwe’s Young Mighty Warriors were scheduled to take on Ethiopia in a Fifa World Cup Under-20 qualifier and with local stadiums banned, they too are set to play their home match outside the country.
Responding to supporters’ plea for re-inspection, Zifa communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela said: “If all work is done and all Caf recommendations are fully adhered to, we will do a local inspection, compile a report that we will send to Caf. That report should be accompanied by graphic and granular evidence in the form of photographs.”
Gwesela said last week’s visit by Caf inspectors had nothing to do with Afcon qualifiers, but that was for World Cup qualifiers, which have higher standards.
“If we correct whatever needs to be corrected and we see that standards have been met, then we will apply for re-inspection,” he said. The Chronicle