from WELLINGTON TONI in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE – THE Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) has earmarked the Orlando Stadium in neighbouring South Africa for its opening 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier following a ban on the use of Zimbabwean stadia by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to host international matches.
Zimbabwe is scheduled to host Algeria on March 29 in a qualification campaign that has degenerated into a farce.
Xolisani Gwesela, the ZIFA spokesman and competitions manager, confirmed the football federation had engaged the South African Football Association (SAFA) for permission to use the 40 000-seater stadium located in Soweto, south of Johannesburg.
“We have started the process to get a stadium and a letter is being dispatched to the South Africa Football Association (SAFA),” Gwesela confirmed.
“The decision does not lie with us. SAFA will advise what is available and then all logistics will be worked out from there,” the ZIFA spokesperson added.
Gwesela ruled out the possibility of Zimbabwe fixing its ill-equipped stadia by March 15 when CAF inspectors could possibly return for further inspection.
“A media tribune for example cannot be fixed in two weeks. Fixing it would mean dismantling the structure but other issues like doping rooms and internet connectivity can be done. Gates need automation so really, it is unachievable in the short term,” he said.
CAF has banned the use of Zimbabwe’s main venue, the National Sports Stadium (NSS) in the capital Harare and the Barbourfields Stadium in the second city of Bulawayo.
The decision by CAF has itself been shrouded in controversy amid allegations of influence by the Algeria Football Federation.
It is alleged a three-man delegation from the North African country was in Zimbabwe ahead of the upcoming match, upon which it inspected facilities at Barboufields, where the match was likely to be played.
CAF is said to have based its ban on the analysis of the Algerian team.
Nonetheless, this does not vindicate Zimbabwe from the fact that its stadia have been on a decline over the years owing to neglect by authorities. Cash-strapped urban councils own the stadia.
Last year, Zimbabwe incurred the wrath of the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) after pulling out of hosting the men’s COSAFA Cup at the last minute.
Sports Minister, Kirsty Coventry, cited the poor state of local stadia.
– CAJ News