Bad news for Zimbabwe: CAF drops another bombshell

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THE Confederation of African Football have dropped another bombshell after they announced the National Sports Stadium has been banned, from hosting international matches, until the country’s biggest sports facility, is upgraded to the required standards.

The Warriors, however, have been granted a reprieve to complete their 2022 World Cup campaign, on home soil.

The team have already crashed out of the tournament.

They are scheduled to host Ethiopia, in their final game of the campaign next month, just days after playing group leaders South Africa away, in the penultimate round, of the qualifiers.

Given that the next international home fixtures, for the Warriors, after their game against Ethiopia, will probably be in March next year, this effectively matches CAF have given local authorities about five months, to address their concerns.

There has been considerable progress made, with the sprucing up of the playing field which now looks lush green, the revamping of the changing rooms and other internal refurbishments.

CAF want the stadium fitted with bucket seats, electronic turnstiles and the setting up of a Venue Operations Centre for safety and security purposes.

CAF also recommended the renovation of the B Arena, for training purposes, among a long list of requirements.

Some ground was covered last year but the work has stalled, at the National Sports Stadium, since the outbreak of Covid-19.

ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, yesterday said CAF were not happy with the lack of progress, following the latest round of inspection, conducted last week.

Gwesela said CAF showed some lenience with Zimbabwe, by allowing the Warriors to host Ethiopia, in a World Cup dead rubber, at the National Sports Stadium.

The local teams who will take part in the CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup cannot use the giant stadium, until renovations have been completed.

“The Confederation of African Football has granted Zimbabwe’s National Sports Stadium a one-match approval to host senior teams’ international matches,’’ said Gwesela in a statement.

“Thereafter, the stadium will be automatically barred from hosting senior teams’ international matches and other CAF Men’s Inter-Club Competitions, until outstanding issues noted in previous inspection reports, have been addressed.

“This follows the inspection the facility by CAF’s Tshegofatso Moiloa on 13 and 14 October.

“CAF indicated that the Warriors’ home World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia in November will be the last game that we will play at home,” said Gwesela.

The National Sports Stadium has been under the CAF spotlight for the last two years.

The ground was initially banned in February last year after it failed to pass a series of assessments.

But, unlike other countries on the continent, the Warriors enjoyed the privilege to play the international matches on home soil, on condition the outstanding issues were being addressed, to bring the facility to the required standards.

CAF made it clear the privilege would be withdrawn, if they did not see any improvement.

Zimbabwe were fined US$2 000, earlier this year, due to “lack of technical facilities” at the National Sports Stadium, during the 2021 AFCON qualifier against Zambia.

In May this year, CAF banned stadiums in seven African countries, including Mali, Senegal, Liberia, Central Africa, Namibia, Malawi, and Burkina Faso.

Other countries, like Senegal, were then given a reprieve.

Gwesela said they have since communicated CAF’s position with the Sports and Recreation Commission.

“The National Sports Stadium was initially banned from hosting senior teams’ matches in 2020 but was provisionally cleared later in the same year,’’ said Gwesela in his statement.

“Since then, CAF has been using reports from inspections conducted by ZIFA, to extend the temporary approval.

“Areas that require urgent attention for the stadium to meet required standards are outlined below:

Individual seats in the stadium — no fixed seats available, there should be fixed seats in all sectors in the stadium, seats for spectators must be individual, fixed (e.g. to the floor), separated from one another, shaped, numbered, made of an unbreakable and non-flammable material, and have a backrest of a minimum height of thirty (30) cm when measured from the seat.

Electronic Turnstiles — the stadium should be equipped with modern electronic turnstiles and automated systems.

Venue Operations Centre — the stadium must have a functional Venue Operations Centre with a good overview of the stadium equipped with CCTV monitors. It should have an override capability over Public Address System in case of emergency announcements. The VOC should be staffed and serve as command centre for security and safety operations.

Renovation of B — Arena — the B Arena of the stadium should be renovated in line with CAF Training field infrastructure requirements.

“Other facilities in the stadium are still not up to the required CAF standards.

“The stadium needs to be fully modernised and brought up to the international standard requirements. ZIFA have communicated CAF’s latest decision to the Sport and Recreation Commission.’’

– Herald


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