Harare - The Zimbabwean government has committed resources to ensure the country’s stadiums are uplifted to the required minimum standards with renewed hopes the Confederation of African Football (CAF) could reverse the blanket ban the board had given Zimbabwe.
All Zimbabwean stadiums were banned from hosting international matches after CAF felt the state of the facilities were too dilapidated to stage high-profile duels under its jurisdiction.
The position has left the Zimbabwe whose senior national team, the Warriors, in an awkward position and they will have to host Algeria on neutral soil later this month.
But, the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) as well as Cosafa have since pleaded with CAF to review the embargo after getting guarantees from government the facilities will be up to scratch by the time Zimbabwe play Algeria in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on March 31.
On Monday, a high-powered delegation led by Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, July Moyo, toured the National Sports Stadium and deliberated on the improvements to be done which have since kicked-off.
The giant stadium is owned by Moyo’s ministry while the other facility, Barbourfields Stadium, which is owned by the Bulawayo City Council, has received ZW$13million (about R14million) from the government to help upgrade the venue.
While the government has taken a leading role to ensure Zimbabwe’s international games are played in the country, both ZIFA and Cosafa have engaged CAF to reconsider their decision and visit the country for re-inspection of the stadia in time for the Warriors/Algeria clash.
ZIFA this week wrote to the continental football controlling board and they are expecting a response this weekend.
The association’s president Felton Kamambo expressed confidence CAF will respond positively to their request.
“As you may be aware, all our grounds were banned from hosting international matches. As ZIFA, in association with Cosafa, we have written to CAF pleading with them to reverse that decision.
“We are expecting their response anytime this weekend and that will guide us. But, as it stands, I am positive they will send inspectors to come and do the re-inspection for both our two biggest grounds, the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields,” said Kamambo.
“As an association, we are very happy that government has given us reassurances that the stadiums will be ready in a matter of weeks, in time for our home match against Algeria.”
Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Tino Machakaire, said government had to intervene for the good of the country.
“We need to host our home matches at home. We have committed resources for the refurbishment of both the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields. The idea is to make both facilities ready for the home match against Algeria later this month. The government owns the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields is owned by the local authorities.
“So we had to pool resources for the upgrading of both venues. We are confident, in a matter of two weeks both stadiums will be ready,” said Machakaire.
CAF flagged the playing surface, media tribunes and turnstiles at the National Sports Stadium while Barbourfields’ doping, medical and changing rooms as well as the lighting systems were questioned, to which Machakaire said they were on their way to address all those issues.
Zimbabwe face Algeria in back-to-back Afcon qualifiers between March 23-31.
The Warriors travel to Algiers first before the return leg six days later.
Zimbabwe are second on four points, two behind the Algerians while Botswana, on one point and Zambia without a single point, will also be out to enhance their chances of qualifying for the Afcon finals to be held in Cameroon next year.
In the event that CAF refuses to pardon Zimbabwe, the Warriors will host Algeria either in Zambia or South Africa.