Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter

THE Confederation of African Football has granted a temporary reprieve for the usage of the National Sports Stadium to be used for men’s senior matches while Barbourfields Stadium remains banned.

In communication sent to Zimbabwe Football Association general secretary Joseph Mamutse on Wednesday, Caf acting head of secretariat Abdelmounaim Bah said the continental body had granted provisional permission for the NSS to be used, subject to attending to issues raised by Caf in prior assessments. While Caf seem impressed by the work carried out at the NSS, the provisional permission to use the venue means work must continue at the venue until the stadium is speedily brought to necessary standard as required by the continental body for the venue to be fully certified.

“With relation to Barbourfields Stadium, based on information received, the decision is to uphold the ban for use in Caf men’s senior matches. On the other hand, we are satisfied to see the progress made in the National Sports Stadium in order to bring the venue to the required standard. Therefore Caf has decided to remove the ban and grant a temporary approval for NSS, subject to the continuation of implementation of the remarks made in the in the previous inspection visits,’’ said Bah.

The decision on the two venues was based on reports and photos submitted by Zifa after Caf requested a pre-inspection report.

Zifa on Thursday confirmed that they had been granted temporary relief to use the NSS, with next month’s Africa Cup of Nations fixture between the Warriors and Dessert Foxes of Algeria to take place at the venue with no fans allowed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It also means Zimbabwean champions FC Platinum will also have to use the NSS as their home ground when they take part in the 2020/21 Caf Champions League, which starts in November. FC Platinum last year and early this year made Barbourfields their home ground in the Champions League since Mandava Stadium is not approved for such high profile fixtures.

“Consequently, our Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Algeria scheduled for 16 November will be played at the National Sports Stadium. Due to the heinous Covid-19 pandemic, match planning is being done based on playing the game in an empty stadium,’’ said Zifa.

The Warriors last played at the NSS on 13 November 2019 in a goalless draw against Botswana in Zimbabwe’s opening Afcon qualifier.

Zifa expressed appreciation to the Government’s swift action to stop the gloomy prospect of playing home matches on foreign soil.