Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
NO Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match will be played in Harare this season unless the National Sports Stadium and Rufaro Stadium meet minimum requirements to host football matches.
Piraishe Mabhena, chairman of the First Instance Body, the Zifa club licensing authority tasked with promoting and improving the quality and level of all football aspects in Zimbabwe, including appropriate infrastructure, indicated that Bulawayo only has one venue, Luveve Stadium, while Barbourfields Stadium is undergoing renovations.
Mabhena was, however, optimistic that Barbourfields will get the nod by early next month after most renovation work is completed after the Government availed $13 million for the project.
“We have a serious challenge when it comes to Harare. As it stands, we don’t have a single stadium that is ready for PSL kick-off. Yes, renovations are taking place at the National Sports Stadium, but the amount of work required will take more than a month and I gather the Premiership season gets underway on March 21,” said Mabhena.
“Rufaro Stadium is derelict literally. It has so many challenges, most which are structural in nature. We are aware that the responsible authority, Harare City Council, is busy with renovation works, but time factor is their major challenge,” he said.
Works at Rufaro and Gwanzura stadiums, Mabhena said, are not short-term.
Luveve Stadium needs a few touch ups for it to meet expected minimum standards and he is convinced Bulawayo City Council will address them in time.
“So, in terms of our national outlook, we only have Mandava, Baobab, Gibbo in Triangle that can host Premiership matches anytime. Vhengere Stadium, while not ready now, is being worked on and I’m confident because the Rusape Town Council is working round the clock for it to be ready for PSL Kick-off.
“We sent our pre-inspection team to Nyamhunga Stadium in Kariba and we were really disappointed with its state. It looks like authorities went to sleep when the season ended last year,” Mabhena said.
PSL spokesperson Kudzai Bare was confident the stadiums will be homologated before season kick-off.
“We are not panicking; we understand that authorities are on the ground working on the stadia. We are confident that they will be completed before the start of the league,” she said.
In the event that the National Sports Stadium and Rufaro are not ready to host games, sources close to Harare’s big two clubs Dynamos and Caps United said they were already making contingency plans for alternative venues.
Dynamos are believed to be eyeing using Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane or Vhengere in Rusape for their home games, while Caps United feel they will be more at home in Bulawayo.
Playing all games on the road will certainly hit Caps United and Dynamos in the pocket, as they will be forced to fork out travelling and accommodation costs every week to fulfil league matches.
For example, a team bus uses about 350 litres of fuel from Harare to Bulawayo and back. Three-star hotels in Bulawayo charge around US$3 000 a night for 20 players, while lodges cost US$2 000.
The fuel consumption and accommodation costs are almost similar for a trip to Zvishavane from Harare.