By Ricky Zililo
Following provisional clearance for the Warriors and South Africa World Cup qualifier to be played at the National Sports Stadium (NSS), the Confederation of African Football (Caf) has urged Zimbabwe to complete renovations at the facility to avoid losing the right to host future international matches.
Caf sent a circular to football associations on May 2 notifying them about facilities that have been cleared to host World Cup qualifying matches.
The National Sports Stadium is part of the list of continental facilities cleared for the qualifiers’ for Match Day 1 and 2.
The development is a relief for Zimbabwe as Zifa had earlier warned that the Warriors face the possibility of losing their sovereignty by playing the upcoming World Cup qualifiers home games on foreign soil if no improvements are urgently done at the National Sports Stadium.
Last month, Caf slapped Zifa with a US$2 000 fine for the lack of bucket seats and general uncleanliness of the stadium when the Warriors played Zambia in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on March 29.
File picture: Minister Kirsty Coventry in one of the refurbished dressing rooms
The latest decision to clear the National Sports Stadium was based on visual and textual inspection reports from an inspection conducted by Zifa on April 23.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association is pleased to inform all football stakeholders that National Sports Stadium has been provisionally homologated to host World Cup qualifiers slated for June 2021.
“In their correspondence, Caf encouraged Zimbabwe to complete all outstanding work in renovating the stadium so that it meets standards required to host senior men teams’ matches.
“Some of the glaring areas noted include the spectator seating areas and sanitary facilities, obsolete access controls, uneven pitch, absence of signage in and around the stadium, untiled dressing rooms and offices floors, sub-standard showers and toilets in the dressing rooms.
“Zifa acknowledges the Government’s efforts in upgrading the stadium, but reiterates that more still needs to be done for Zimbabwe to have at least one standard stadium to host top level matches,” reads part of Zifa’s statement.
Caf has also warned that any organisational or technical breaches observed during the upcoming matches will attract financial sanctions.
Twenty-two countries, including highly ranked Senegal and Mali had their facilities condemned and left out from the list of stadia that meet Caf requirements.
The Warriors were drawn in Group G alongside neighbours South Africa, whom they face in the opening match between June 5-8, former continental champions Ghana and Ethiopia.
Zimbabwe’s Match Day 2 is a trip to Ethiopia on June 11 at Bahir Dar International Stadium in Bahir Dar, about 500km north-west of the capital Addis Ababa.
Bahir Dar is the only Ethiopian facility that Caf has cleared. Ghana, who open their group match with a home assignment against Ethiopia had two facilities, Accra Sports Stadium and Cape Coast Sports Stadium cleared by Caf.
South Africa had 13 venues cleared, according to the Caf list.
Countries with condemned stadia
Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Gambia, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Reunion, Sao Tome, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Eswatini, Zanzibar. The Chronicle