By Zvamaida Murwira
The National Sports Stadium is now almost ready to host international football matches while Babourfields will be designated to host low-tier games such as those featuring the country’s national youth teams like the Young Warriors.
Sports and Recreation Commission director-general, Prince Mupazviriho, said only a few issues, such as suitable turnstiles and bucket seats remained to be fitted at the country’s biggest sports stadium.
He said it was no longer prudent to continue demolishing structures at Barbourfields, in order to refurbish the stadium, considering it was an old facility constructed more than 70 years ago.
Mupazviriho was giving oral evidence before Parliament’s portfolio committee on Youth, Sports, Arts and Culture which wanted to get an update on stadia upgrade, among other issues, related to sport.
He was accompanied by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Thokozile Chitepo.
“The minimum requirements to host international matches, National Sports Stadium is there, except for bucket seats, e-ticketing and turnstiles,’’ said Mupazviriho.
“And, the reason for those aspects to be outstanding is that most of the companies who manufacture (the items) are closed and we have to import.
“I am happy to report that two, or three weeks ago, I got approval from the Permanent Secretary (Chitepo) to float a tender whose processes are already at an advanced stage.
“Other than these outstanding issues, the National Sports Stadium now meets the intended requirements.
“If, today, we are requested to host a qualifying match for AFCON or World Cup, the National Sports Stadium must be able to host.
“It’s not only Zimbabwe, there are also a number of countries that must also upgrade their stadia.’’
Mupazviriho said a permanent solution for Barbourfields was not in renovating it, but building a new stadium in the City of Kings.
“You know that it is one of the stadiums built in the early 1950s and its expansion will change some of its structural issues and that has got some challenges,’’ he said.
“We went there last week and we agreed with the Bulawayo City Council on what needs to be done.
“I must highlight this is an old facility and there is a limit to what can be done with such an old facility. So, the agreement that we had, as a board, and which CAF has confirmed receiving the correspondence, is that there are certain low-tier international tournaments which can be hosted there.
“Like the youth games, Under-20 and so forth, which are not high level qualifiers.
“That is what we are looking at. The best for Barbourfields is to have a new stadium because we cannot continue demolishing its structures.”
He said work was continuing on the renovations at Mandava and Sakubva.
The committee, chaired by Chivi North MP Mathias Tongofa, directed the SRC furnish them with the latest reports from CAF regarding their inspection observations on all the stadia.
Last year, CAF condemned the National Sports Stadium, Barbourfields and Mandava from hosting international matches football matches.
Since then Government has moved in to assist and refurbish the facilities, including Sakubva in Mutare.
The National Sports Stadium was condemned for its uneven turf, turnstiles, lack of bucket seats, poor changing rooms, doping rooms, first aid rooms, media tribunes as well as ablution facilities.
Last month, the Government, said work on most of the targeted areas at the giant stadium was between 70 percent and 100 percent complete.
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 had reached an advanced stage.
The Government said the bucket seats were 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.
“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,’’ Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation Minister, Kirsty Coventry, said after a tour of the giant stadium.
“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).’’ The Herald