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CAF removes sanctions on National Sports Stadium

by Staff reporter
30 Jul 2021 at 07:26hrs | Views
CAF have given ZIFA the greenlight to stage the blockbuster 2022 World Cup qualifier, between the Warriors and Bafana Bafana, at the National Sports Stadium, in September.

The two fierce Limpopo rivals are set to meet, in a World Cup qualifier, for the first time, in exactly 20 years. Their last meeting was at Ellis Park, in Johannesburg, on May 5, 2001, when first-half goals by Shaun Bartlett and Benni McCarthy powered Bafana Bafana to a 2-1 victory, in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers.

A penalty, converted by Peter Ndlovu, in the 53rd minute, gave the Warriors some hope but the hosts held on for the priceless victory, on their way to the World Cup finals, in Japan and South Korea. A year earlier, the two teams met in an ill-fated World Cup qualifier, at the National Sports Stadium, in which 13 Warriors fans were killed, in a stampede, in the darkest day, in the history of Zimbabwean sport.

There had been fears the Warriors would be forced, to host Bafana Bafana, in a foreign country, amid concerns the giant stadium might not pass the latest CAF test, for the World Cup qualifiers. However, the Government intervention, which has seen significant work being done, in terms of renovations, at the country's biggest sports stadium, has won been noted by CAF.

This means the Warriors will not suffer the embarrassment of playing one of their biggest matches, away from the place, they call their home. In May this year, CAF announced a ban on about 20 stadiums, across the African continent, from hosting the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

The National Sports Stadium, though, had escaped the latest sanctions. But, Senegal, Uganda, Libya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Niger and Sierra Leone found themselves without a stadium to host their World Cup qualifiers. This forced the CAF leadership to postpone the start of the World Cup qualifiers to give the countries more time to work on ensuring their home grounds were up to scratch.

"The CAF Emergency Committee, in consultation with FIFA, decided to postpone the CAF qualifiers for the FiFA World Cup Qatar 2022 that were due to be played in June 2021 after taking into consideration the current challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the need to ensure the optimal playing conditions for all participating teams," CAF said in a statement.

"The qualifiers will now take place in the existing windows of September, October and November 2021, and March 2022. "CAF is reassessing its protocols and processes to enhance the implementation of Covid-related protocols, including specifically focusing on pre-match testing which had been the source of some challenges in previous windows. Full details on the updated match schedule will be provided in due course."

ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, yesterday said CAF had provisionally homologated the National Sports Stadium, after going through the local football mother body's submission. The national association submitted relevant documentation, for the continental body to make a determination, on the giant stadium's fitness, to host international matches.

"The National Sports Stadium has been temporarily approved to host upcoming World Cup qualifiers,'' said Gwesela.  "CAF has encouraged Zimbabwe to address outstanding issues on (the) pitch condition, sanitary facilities and access controls. CAF will fine ZIFA if any breaches are noted during games."  

CAF still want the outstanding issues, including the erecting of bucket sets, to be completed by the authorities.  ZIFA were fined US$2 000 by CAF earlier this year, for the absence of bucket seats, and general uncleanliness of the stadium, during the AFCON qualifier against Zambia, on 29 March.

"Since the last provisional clearance for the Warriors to host Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Algeria and Zambia at the National Sports Stadium, there were outstanding issues at the facility that were supposed to be attended to," said Gwesela.

"We submitted relevant information that was required by CAF, including video and photographic evidence of the current state of the National Sports Stadium.

"We're happy to report that we've received a positive feedback in that the facility has been temporarily homologated."  

Zimbabwe are set to play two matches in September as they also have an away trip to Ethiopia in Group G, which also includes Ghana.  CAF also announced that the draw for the AFCON tournament, set for Cameroon in January next year, will take place in August.  Zimbabwe are among the 24 countries which have qualified for the finals.

The draw was originally scheduled for Yaounde on June 25, but has been postponed due to the surge in Covid-19 cases on the continent. "CAF, together with the Local Organising Committee of Cameroon, announce that the draw for the final phase of the 33rd edition of the Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon 2021, will take place on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 at the Yaounde Conference Centre, Cameroon at 19h00 local time (18h00 GMT).

"The draw will see the 24 countries that will participate in next year's TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations descend in the country ahead of 09 January 2022 kick-off.  

"CAF will release more information in due course including the draw procedure and special guests," said the CAF statement.

The ZIFA board are likely to discuss the issue of the Warriors technical team, led by Zdravko Logarusic, which has performed below par, in the last 18 months. The Croatian coach has become a divisive figure, in domestic football, with many fans, and analysts, questioning whether he is the right man, to take charge of the national team.

A single win, in a dozen matches, has led many to question the very decision to engage a lightweight coach, who is set to make his debut at the AFCON finals, in Cameroon, next January.

Source - the herald
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