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Stadia crisis looms in Zimbabwe

by Staff reporter
04 Mar 2023 at 08:08hrs | Views
One of the ceremonial homes of football in the country Rufaro Stadium remains banned from use despite promises by the City of Harare that the facility will be fully upgraded by the start of the season.

It's only two weeks before the start of the 2023 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League and topflight league clubs are frantic, trying to get their choice stadia ready for the big kick-off.

One of the ceremonial homes of football in the country Rufaro Stadium remains banned from use despite promises by the City of Harare that the facility will be fully upgraded by the start of the season.

However, work to rehabilitate Rufaro has begun in earnest but it will certainly not be ready when the league commences.

There are six teams in the league from Harare with only the National Sports Stadium in shape to host top flight matches in the capital.

A visit by the NewsDay Sport to Rufaro yesterday showed that much progress had been made outside the stadium compared to the inside with the perimeter wall, car park and shops being constructed around the facility taking shape.

Harare council official Hope Chizuzu expressed satisfaction with how the project was progressing.

"A feasibility update on progress of work will be done at the completion of the first cycle. Works on the turf, renovations of accompanying facilities, perimeter wall, parking space, media facilities and attendant techs are progressing well at the moment with people working round the clock, according to timelines," he said.

"Everything requiring attention has been started and completion of works is timed to enable usage of the stadium as primed. The cost of works is need-related and is being covered from the council budget for the exercise. When the project Rufaro refurbishment is complete, technical summation of the cost will be made."

Harare giants Dynamos are understood to be pushing for the completion of the Rufaro renovations as it is their preferred home ground, especially this year when they are celebrating their 60th anniversary.

This week, the PSL announced that Gweru's Ascot Stadium and Vhengere in Rusape failed to meet the minimum requirements to host topflight league matches.

Army sides Black Rhinos and Cranborne Bullets, who used the Rusape facility last season will have to find an alternative home or share the National Sports Stadium with Dynamos, Caps United, Herentals and Yadah FC.

Rhinos are pushing to move their home to Chinhoyi Stadium while Gweru-based league debutants Sheasham are exploring using Mandava while finishing renovations on Bata Power Stadium.

Other newcomers Simba Bhora and Green Fuel are yet to finish upgrades on Wadzayi and Green Fuel Sports Arena, respectively.

Rhinos secretary-general Colonel Edward Mutukwa is confident that Chinhoyi Stadium would be ready for use by March 18, when the league season is scheduled to commence.

"We are looking to use Chinhoyi Stadium and we are pushing for it to be ready for the start of the season. The owners of the facility have done a lot already, they have fixed the changing rooms, the toilets, the doping rooms and everything," he told Newsday Sport.

"An inspection was done and there are some areas that need to be spruced and they are actually working on them expecting by the end of next week they would have finished. We were using Vhengere last year and now it has failed the standards test.

"Now we are going to use Chinhoyi which is closer to Harare and has a good catchment area in terms of support base. From Karoi, Lions, Den, Alaska, Chegutu, Mapinga and Mhangura they have an opportunity to watch premier league football in Chinhoyi.

"At the same time, there is also the university and they can also fill up the stadium. Harare is congested and if you are not Caps United and Dynamos, you don't have fans watching your games because we need gate takings to cover some operational costs," he added.

Sheasham are likely to use Mandava for their opening PSL matches as the construction of Bata Power Stadium is yet to be completed.

The PSL newboys recently revealed that they injected over US$250 000 to revamp the stadium and work is underway.

According to the club, construction workers are working round the clock to meet the minimum requirements which include sprucing up the VIP stands and building a standard media stand.

Club chairman Reginald Chidawanyika said they were also still monitoring the newly installed turf and remain hopeful to complete the work by the start of the season.

Gweru City council officials say they were yet to receive communication from Zifa's first instance board regarding Ascot Stadium's failure to meet the standards.

"As Gweru we have not received any report from the Zifa first instance board to that effect. It's an issue that we are only seeing on social media," Gweru City spokesperson Vimbai Chingwaramuse said.

Former PSL side TelOne has been spearheading renovations at the stadium which they use as their home in the Ruvimbo Funeral Central Region.

Chisumbanje side Green Fuel has no other option than to complete the refurbishment of Green Fuel Sports Arena or else they will have to play their matches far away from home.

Club chairperson Fred Moyo revealed that renovations were 80% complete while bemoaning the rains for stalling progress.

"Our stadium is now 80% complete; we are currently working on the final touches. All required materials are on site but work has been drastically affected by the rains.

"I will get my finance department to provide total funds invested so far in the stadium," he said.

Simba Bhora spokesperson Charles Nyatsine understands how important it will be to play their opening day home match against champions FC Platinum in front of their fans.

"As for the stadium renovations, we are working flat out so that we meet the target. Playing our first game at home would mean a lot as it will be sort of a declaration and welcoming of the PSL to Mash Central. Obviously, all roads within the province and beyond will be leading to Wadzanayi and thus it will work as a catalyst in improving the support," he said.

Hwange, who returned to topflight football this season will use Colliery Stadium while Highlanders, Bulawayo Chiefs and Chicken Inn will use Barbourfields and Luveve. FC Platinum's Mandava remains one of the best stadiums in the country and is set to host the season opening Castle Challenge Cup next week.

Other stadia which will be used this season include Nyamhunga (ZPC Kariba), Sakubva (Manica Diamonds) and Baobab (Ngezi Platinum).

Source - Newsday Zimbabwe