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Stadia crisis looms in Zimbabwe

by Staff reporter
06 Oct 2021 at 05:46hrs | Views
THE inevitable change in the 2021 domestic football season to spill into the first-half of next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic will expose the country's poor state of stadia.

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) announced last month that it had set October 30 as the provisional kick-off date of the season.

In the past, the domestic league championship ran for eight months from March to the end of November.

But due to Covid-19, the PSL and all lower division programmes under the auspices of Zifa failed to kick-off in 2020 and Government, through the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), only allowed resumption of topflight action last month.

While Zimbabwe's domestic season normally runs between March and November, the Fifa and Caf calendars start from August to May, and there had been increasing pressure to align it with other leagues.

Zifa communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela said Zimbabwe has a "stadium crisis" that requires local authorities and the Government to address.

Gwesela said although the First Instance Body is yet to take another round to assess facilities registered by PSL clubs ahead of the October 30 championship kick-off, the situation looks gloomy as even the country's only provisionally homologated stadium, the National Sports Stadium, risks losing the privilege of playing host to international games.

He painted a gloomy picture for the domestic league, which will run through the rainy season, as in the past some matches had to be postponed or called off as a result of poor drainage at match venues.

"I think at best we can describe our country's stadium situation as a crisis for the game, which needs urgent attention. Very soon, we will be going around the country as the FIB to see if the stadium owners have addressed issues previously raised. One of those issues, which is a real threat to the programmes being disrupted, is poor drainage should there be lots of rain," said Gwesela

"All along we've been calling for stadium owners, who include local authorities, to address that and in the past, we escaped the crisis of having matches played during the rain season, but now because of Covid-19, we are exposed.

The country's stadium crisis really needs key stakeholders to urgently address it."

Presently, Chibuku Super Cup games are being played at four venues, National Sports Stadium, Barbourfields Stadium, Mandava in Zvishavane and Sakubva Stadium in Mutare.

Last weekend, the PSL had to move the venue for the Chibuku Super Cup match between Caps United and Herentals, and the Yadah and Harare City encounter to Baobab Stadium in Ngezi, after the National Sports Stadium suddenly became unavailable.

Other facilities that the FIB previously declined to grant authority to host topflight games because of their poor state are Nyamhunga Stadium in Kariba, Luveve Stadium in Bulawayo, Gweru's Ascot Stadium, Rufaro in Harare and Vhengere in Rusape.

Harare teams usually share the National Sports Stadium and Rufaro, while Bulawayo clubs use Luveve and Barbourfields.

ZPC Kariba uses Nyamhunga as their homeground, with Ascot housing Whawha, while Vhengere had been tipped to be home to Tenax.

In the 1990s, the PSL then led by the late Morrison Sifelani and Chris Sibanda tried to align the league with the rest of the world, but hit a snag due to water-logging of stadia.

All stadia had no reliable drainage systems, which resulted in water-logging, and that problem has still not been attended to 31 years later.

Source - The Chronicle