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Not another ‘home’ away from home

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JUST as we were recovering from the ignominy of ‘hosting’  our recent World Cup home game against Nigeria in the little town of Bature in Rwanda at Huye Stadium, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) inspectors last week descended on us with a bombshell.

Both the National Sports Stadium and Rufaro Stadium are unsuitable to host international football matches, they said.

This raises the prospect of our Warriors playing their upcoming home World Cup qualifiers in June on foreign soil again.

Dynamos and Ngezi Platinum Stars, due to play the Confederation Cup and CAF Champion’s League respectively, are likely to suffer the same fate.

And yet when there was this outcry over our national team ‘hosting’ the Nigerian Eagles in Rwanda there seemed to be an assurance that it would never be repeated.

The Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Kirsty Coventry, who was the main target of attack, is known for her conserted efforts to find funding to improve sport infrastructure and development.

We are sure she should be the last person to feel at ease seeing our Warriors ‘hosting’ more matches outside our borders.

We look mainly at her Ministry since it is the one responsible for running the National Sports Stadium.

So it is indeed right for her to be heard pleading for intervention to upgrade the NSS to international standards. 

Rufaro Stadium, which is an alternative venue, which we had expected to provide facilities in line with CAF requirements, is a major disappointment.

Harare City Council, responsible for running this stadium, has been giving us misleading promises that they were capable of fulfilling CAF requirements with ease.

We have seen nothing to date.

They even went to the extent of refusing a glorious offer from Sakunda Holdings to build a state-of-the art stadium in line with CAF requirements.

And there wasn’t any good reason submitted for the rejection.

As it stands, misdirected efforts to revamp Rufaro Stadium, our traditional home of soccer, have left the City Council in a quandary, as CAF has recommended that the 61-year old structure be demolished and started afresh.

Today we hear of the City Fathers boasting that Rufaro has been developed to a level where it is now suitable to stage local top flight football matches.

Who told these City Fathers that Zimbabwean soccer lovers don’t mind being isolated from the rest of the world! 

Soccer lovers love those games which are preceded by national anthems , Zimbabwean in particular, with Warriors’ hands on their chests.

We want at least Rufaro and NSS to meet minimum international standards recognised by CAF soonest.

Never again should we see our Warriors ‘hosting’ international matches outside our borders.

What happened in Hue Stadium is enough.

What puzzles soccer lovers is why a whole Ministry and City Council are failing to do  what Prophet Walter Magaya has done.

The Heart Stadium, a 5 000 seater master-piece, which did not take long to construct, is a world facility, which will accommodate 40 000 people when complete.

Where there is a will there is a way.

Our neighbour, South Africa, has at least 10 stadiums that meet international standards.

Right now the 24 teams at AFCON in Ivory Coast are contesting at six CAF-approved venues spread across five cities.

Most other countries, Zimbabwe excluded, have at least one stadium that meets CAF standards.

We agree with CAF that hosting rights for the AFCON biennial tournament should only be granted to countries with modern stadiums.

Indeed, countries without suitable venues should not be allowed to host international matches. 

We are not sure whether we shall get another visit from an inspection team before June.

But if we do, we hope at least the NSS will meet the minimum CAF requirements for us to host World Cup matches.

Dynamos and Ngezi Platinum Stars should also benefit from such a development.

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