By Robson Sharuko
The National Sports Stadium has undergone an impressive facelift — its battered pitch has been transformed into a fresh and green surface, a new media centre has been erected while renovations of the dressing rooms have reached an advanced stage.
The Government, which is bankrolling the exercise, has received reports that work on most of the targeted areas is now between 70 percent and 100 percent complete.
The bucket seats are unlikely to be installed by July 15, because of complications related to their procurement in the wake of the challenges brought about by the global lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Rather than just procure bucket seats for the National Sports Stadium alone, the Government has chosen to procure, at once, seats for Barbourfields and Sakubva because it’s cost-effective to do the process once rather than in phases.
Engineers are looking at how erecting bucket seats will affect the capacity of the stadium with Government looking at the best possible ways of carrying out the exercise without cutting the stadium’s sitting capacity by a considerable figure given doing so will ultimately be unfair to the fans.
From next week, ZIFA and the Sports Commission will compile all the work done at the National Sports Stadium and send a report to CAF, which should be received before June 15, to enable the continental football governing body to send officials to inspect the giant stadium.
The country’s biggest sports stadium, the traditional home of the Warriors, was barred from hosting international matches after both CAF and FIFA ruled there were areas that needed to be fixed first.
Yesterday, Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister, Kirsty Coventry, toured the National Sports Stadium in the company of the Permanent Secretary in her Ministry, Thokozile Chitepo, Sports Commission director-general Prince Mupazviriho, officials from the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works and ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela.
“I haven’t been here for about five or six weeks and there has been very drastic changes, especially in the team rooms, in the changing rooms, in the bathrooms, in the media centre here, it’s looking very nice, very professional,’’ she said.
“The team has been working very hard, it’s nice to see that progress has been made, I’m very happy with how things are, (there are) a few minor adjustments, on what I have told the teams, we would like to see.
“The pitch is great, the before and after pictures I’m seeing there has been huge change. I think what we would ideally want to see, I think in the next 12 months and this will be budget-dependent, will be to redo the entire pitch, get a fresh pitch in.
“But, we have to say thank you to Royal Harare Golf Club who have stepped in to come in and lend their advice, lend their expertise and even some of their machinery and equipment.
“They have been very understanding and a big thank you to them for standing up and coming to help another sport, they are still assisting, the pitch is looking remarkable, I know we have a few areas where there were some army worms and ants and they have all been taken care of.
“You can notice even the colour of the pitch and the vibrancy, how good it’s looking.
“We have been given the opportunity to upgrade our facilities and we are obviously working towards that for CAF and FIFA but also to recognise that the stadium is also there for track and field, multi-sport, so — as much as we are staying in line with CAF recommendations — we also want to ensure that we are falling in line with what will be needed for, let’s say, the World Athletics (Games).’’
Coventry said there was still work that needed to be done.
“I have asked the team to look into a few things, in terms of the doping room, what is needed if we ever were to host an international competition for track and field, what is needed for that, if we doing the renovations we must ensure that the stadium is multi-sport, multi-purpose, across the board,’’ she said.
“These are things we would be looking at to ensure we are covered, I think it’s a good opportunity to ensure that it’s all being encompassed.
“The percentages we can share with you guys, most of them are sitting between 85 percent, 100 percent, 80 percent, I see a 75 percent, I think we are looking very good,’’ she said.
“What the process is, I think we need to be more clear, is we will ask the ZIFA liaison to come and write their update and send that report to CAF.
“CAF will then give a designated time, we have been told between June 15th and July 15th, so it’s a whole month, it’s not like by June 15th but, obviously, we have to have communicated to CAF before June 15th and that must be done and ZIFA have been told in advance of the way it should be done.
“They are working with the DG (Mupazviriho), this next week, to make sure that communication is going, especially the upgrades and my understanding is that once CAF have received that report from the ZIFA reporting mechanism, they will come back to us to say at some point, a date between June 15th and July 15th, a date when they would then send a team to do their inspections.’’
She said procurement of bucket seats, especially the cost-effective ones from China, could be a challenge now because of the complications related to COVID-19, which has paralysed not only industries but how imported material is transported from one country to another.
However, she said the process would be done, since this was a requirement, and there would be feasibility studies undertaken to ensure they get the best seats, which suit our stadiums, while engineers will also have to check how such a makeover will affect the sitting capacity at Barbourfields.
The procurement of electronic turnstiles could be affected by the challenges related to getting equipment from foreign countries.
“But, I must thank ZIFA and CAF and FIFA for all their understanding from a sports perspective,’’ said Coventry.
“Understanding that there are a lot of restrictions, in terms of procurement when it comes to non-essential goods and non-essential Covid items and, that being said, I think everything else on the list will definitely be completed in time for the inspection, aside for the those two (bucket seats and turnstiles).
“That is why we are now asking for a little bit of flexibility because it’s out of our hands, in terms of procurement, otherwise everything else is on track and should be done ahead of time.’’ The Herald