CAF condemn National Sports Stadium, Rufaro — again

THE Confederation of African Football (CAF) have once again condemned both the National Sports Stadium and Rufaro Stadium as unsuitable to host international football matches, raising the prospect that the Warriors might be forced to play their homes games in a foreign country, especially in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in June.

Premier Soccer League champions Ngezi Platinum Stars and Chibuku Super Cup winners Dynamos could suffer the same fate when they begin their CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup assignments, respectively.

Although Harare City Council Mayor Jacob Mafume has been telling everybody who cares to listen that Rufaro, which falls under the purview of the local authority, has been refurbished into an world-class stadium and should be ready by end of next month, CAF have, however, recommended that the 61-year-old facility be demolished and rebuilt, if it is to conform to international standards.

Mafume had even proposed staging the Mayor’s Cup between Harare giants Dynamos and CAPS United on February 10 as a dry run ahead of the 2024 Premier Soccer League season.

He hoped the Warriors could use the venue for its matches in June.

The continental football body also expressed disappointment with the slow pace of renovations at the National Sports Stadium.

The Sunday Mail Sport understands that the concerns were highlighted in a letter written by CAF technical development director Raul Chipenda to ZIFA Normalisation Committee chairperson Lincoln Mutasa, which came after inspection visits conducted on the two venues at the end of last year.

“With reference to the stadium general inspection conducted by CAF in Zimbabwe to assess the National Sports Stadium (Harare) and Rufaro Stadium (Harare), based on the inspection report, we regret to inform you that both stadiums do not meet the set CAF stadium minimum requirements to host CAF international matches,’’ Chipenda wrote.

“Please find attached in Annex A the comments and remarks for each of the inspected stadiums, which needs to be addressed in the coming period by the stadium management in order to ensure that the stadiums fully meet the minimum requirements set by CAF.

“The inspection report concluded that several areas in both the stadiums require a total renovation in accordance with the CAF requirements, overall indicating that the stadiums must be totally revamped and redesigned from the ground up to fit the modern football stadium requirements and standards.

“Areas such as the field of play, stands and spectator facilities, competition areas, media and medical facilities are just some of the main highlighted issues.

“Additionally, the functionality, design, comfort and the quality of equipment in the stadiums are currently of great concern.”

CAF indicated that the National Sports Stadium remains in a similar condition as found during its last inspection.

And the current standard of the refurbishment work on Rufaro were described as “not fully in line with the CAF stadium requirements”.

“On this basis, several structural errors and deficiencies could be identified during the inspection visit, which could have been avoided if CAF was consulted from the initial stages of the project,” added Chipenda.

“As it stands, it is important to underline that there is a high risk that at the end of the ongoing renovation works in Rufaro Stadium, the stadium might still fail to comply with the minimum requirements to host some of the CAF competitions.

“We would like to highlight that the overall stadiums situation in Zimbabwe remains critical, and in case the standards do not improve in the near future, the national teams and clubs will have to continue to play their CAF matches in an approved stadium outside of your territory.

“CAF, therefore, encourages the initiation of a total renovation programme on
both stadiums in line with the CAF standards, and the purchase of all required equipment.”

The continental body also recommended the closure of the stadiums for major renovations, while ensuring the hiring of experienced companies with a proven track record in construction and renovation of modern football stadiums.

“In particular, the general refurbishment plan in the stadium should be based on modern architecture, contemporary design and high-quality materials with a clear project plan and specific timelines.”

Chipenda emphasised the importance of quality stadiums for the development and progress of African football.

Mutasa recently indicated to the media that there was little ZIFA could do on the issue.

“As ZIFA, our hands a tied,” he said.

“There is little we can do, inasmuch as we want our national teams to play our home games here. We can only continue to lobby the stadium authorities to speed up the renovations in line with the CAF requirements.”

Sunday Mail

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