IT looks like the pace at which f00tball coaches are raising the standard of the game is not being matched by those responsible for bringing the venues for these games up to date. With the football clubs, the standard has definitely levelled off, as witnessed by the absence of ‘whipping boys.’ Football results are no longer easy to predict.
The last results where traditional football giants like Dynamos, Highlanders and FC Platinum were held by Triangle United, Sheasham and Manica Diamonds, respectively, tell a story. The log table shows quite a number of teams jostling for the top spot with no runaway leaders. This is a healthy sign that football is now competitive. What is disturbing, however, is the inverse proportion to the number of people attending theses matches.
Apart from the estimated 30 000 who attended the Harare derby between CAPS United and Dynamos recently, there has been nothing eye-catching elsewhere. The reason is there for all to see. We believe it is the non-availability of suitable venues within reach, which is limiting attendance. Soccer lovers are always very eager to watch their favourite teams in action. Give a thought to ardent supporters of Manica Diamonds, who have to travel all the way to Gibbo in the Lowveld for their team’s home games.
Sakubva, a stadium run by Mutare City Council, has been condemned by PSL. But Manica Diamonds are not alone in this predicament. Simba Bhora, Green Fuel and ZPC Kariba are also forced to travel long distances for their home matches.
Another grim picture is that of Harare, where five clubs and three others have to share the National Sports Stadium as their home ground. This has forced unfamiliar mid-week games and awkward double headers inconveniencing possible spectators. This discourages a huge chunk from attending matches they would have loved to. With more stadiums available such congestion of fixtures would not be necessary.
Why don’t those responsible just renovate stadia like Rufaro, Dvivaresekwa, Chibuku in Chitungwiza, Callies and Arcadia — all in Harare. This is in addition to Sakubva, Vhengere, Rudhaka and Rimuka, among others. The more these facilities are made available, the ensuing advantages are bound to attract more spectators at football matches.
What with the improving standard in our football games! We are happy to hear Sheashan and Hwange stadia have been renovated and got the PSL nod to host local matches. We expect more to follow. But what sort of standards are PSL approving?
Remember we are still under FIFA suspension and are not allowed to participate in games under their sanction. We must also remember that, even before the suspension, we could not host a FIFA-sanctioned match in any of our stadiums. There is not even one which meets international standards.
Just imagine a soccer-loving country like Zimbabwe begging Botswana, Zambia or South Africa to host our matches! We expect PSL standards to match standards expected by FIFA. We would like a situation where a number of venues would qualify for FIFA-sanctioned matches.
We don’t understand why it looks like nothing much is being done to make the NSS, our national pride, compatible with the requirements of FIFA standards. Won’t it be a disgrace when we are readmitted into FIFA and still find ourselves without suitable venues to host matches? There are promises about the renovation of Rufaro; we won’t be surprised if they remain just that — empty promises. Why don’t the urban councils encourage lease agreements with willing partners to have their numerous stadia renovated. Some clubs are managing to achieve this with their sponsors. Denying such synergies for dubious political reasons, like what the City of Harare is doing with Rufaro stadium, is the greatest disservice to the soccer-loving public.