Harare - The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has upheld their initial decision to issue a blanket ban on all Zimbabwean stadiums from hosting international matches.
The embargo was effected a fortnight ago as CAF felt the Zimbabwean match facilities fall short of the minimum requirements.
The ban left Zimbabwe in a quandary and they had been advised to look for an alternative venue outside the country.
But, the intervention of the government who poured some millions of dollars into the refurbishment project for three stadia, the National Sports Stadium, Sakubva and Barbourfields, ZIFA had written seeking a reprieve from CAF.
Indicators had pointed to a ZIFA victory but CAF this week dropped a bombshell, sticking to their earlier decision.
The move by CAF prompted ZIFA to look for other options and they have decided to stage their next 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Algeria at Orlando Stadium.
ZIFA president Felton Kamambo confirmed the move and said the country will continue upgrading their facilities as they aim to host the next match in Zimbabwe.
“After some efforts to try and convince CAF to review their decision, we were told it was too late.
“We reached that decision after we got guarantees from the Government of Zimbabwe who have taken a leading role in resuscitating our stadiums around the country. In fact, the Government has committed quiet a substantial amount of money (437,6 million) towards the rehabilitation of the stadiums,” said Kamambo.
“However, CAF felt that we had delayed and we needed to give them an alternative venue for the match and after some considerations, we decided to settle for Orlando Stadium in South Africa.
“We believe that any stadium in Southern Africa is home enough for us although we would have wanted to use our own stadiums in Zimbabwe for this blockbuster encounter.”
Kamambo, though, said it was disappointing to play away from home in a match the country was supposed to host. The move would also afford other Zimbabweans based in South Africa a chance to cheer the Warriors on.
“You know what it means playing right in front of your home fans. It is an amazing feeling and they will cheer you up. But, the decision has been made. We believe that we will still be able to fill Orlando Stadium to the rafters.
“As you may be aware, there are a lot of Zimbabweans living in South Africa who will be at the stadium. As we speak, efforts are already underway mobilizing them to be part of the fun at Orlando.
“We also believe that our neighbours, South Africa, who have given us the stadium will also be supporting us, so will be all Southern Africans.
“However, we will keep on working on the refurbishment of the stadiums in the country. The progress made by the authorities working on upgrading the National Sports Stadium, Sakubva and Barbourfields have been tremendous.
“We hope that the next match after the Algeria one will be held in Zimbabwe.”
Zimbabwe are second in their 2021 AFCON qualifying group with four points to their name, two behind Algeria.
Zambia have no points while Botswana are on a single point after two rounds of matches but both still have a chance to secure the two available slots for qualification to the biannual tournament to be held in Cameroon next year.