Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has called for improvement of the country’s football stadiums to meet international standards and thereby help promote sports tourism.
Only Barbourfields Stadium has provisionally been given the nod to play host to international matches, while the country’s biggest stadium, National Sports, was struck off the list of facilities that host Caf or Fifa matches. Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane also failed the test after a Caf grounds inspection.
The National Sports Stadium was given the most adverse report by the Caf stadium inspection team and wholesale improvements are needed before the 60 000-seater facility can host international matches again.
“It’s heart breaking that the National Sports Stadium has suffered the fate of being struck off the list of stadiums that can host international matches because of the usual tourism activity that usually comes up when games are played there. Now that there are no more international matches at the stadium, it’s indeed a cause for concern because there is always a gain to tourism when matches are held there,” said ZTA head corporate affairs Godfrey Koti.
“We are, however, happy that Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo remains on the list of stadiums that will host international matches, but on a larger scale this is not something to celebrate because we want more stadiums to be able to host international matches. Benefits to tourism are huge. Football is the most followed sport in the world and its business is said to be in the range of US$6 to US$7 billion worldwide and as Zimbabwe, how do we begin to tap into that? We have exported good talent in the past and even now.”
In its letter to Zifa after the inspections in December, Caf said Barbourfields Stadium remained provisionally available to host Caf inter-club matches and would need to meet certain minimum standards as recommended by the grounds inspection committee in order to continue hosting international matches.
The report for Barbourfields was, however, not adverse compared to the National Sports Stadium.
Ahead of an inspection by Caf in two weeks time, the owners of Barbourfields Stadium, the Bulawayo City Council, yesterday said the facility would be spruced up to expected standards.
“The guys are meeting tomorrow now that our budget as a city has been approved. We will be checking on things that Caf said need to be done, but we remain committed to meeting the expected requirements as Bulawayo City Council,” said BCC director of housing and community services Dictor Khumalo.
He said they were cognisant of the time left before The Warriors resume international engagements against African champions Algeria in the 2022 Total African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Some critics say because of the magnitude of the match, looking at the expected attendance figures, the game might be switched to a venue outside the country.
However, precedence has been set where Caf would only allow a certain number of tickets to be sold to avoid the stadium carrying more than it can accommodate.
When FC Platinum played host to Orlando Pirates, 21 000 tickets were printed and recently in Egypt when the Zimbabwe champions played Al Ahly, only 10 000 fans were allowed at the 30 000-seater facility.