Rest Mutore, Sports Reporter
WARRIORS’ Afcon 2021 qualifier against Algeria set for March 29 will likely be played in South Africa.
This follows the decision by the Confederation of African Football to ban local stadiums for failing to meet laid down international standards.
Zimbabwe play the Desert Foxes in back-to-back encounters, beginning with a visit to Algeria on March 26 with a reverse fixture to be played three days later.
The news of stadia ban was received with an outcry from fans, football analysts and administrators who lashed out at the Zifa administration for failing to deal with the issue.
However, Zifa are blaming the stadium owners.
CAF gave a warning in November last year that Zimbabwe risks playing their home matches on neutral soil if Barbourfields Stadium – which was only given the nod then – is not spruced up.
Sources at Zifa, who declined to be named, told H-Metro last night that the local football authorities are considering seeking refuge in South Africa.
Zambia is also another option but was considered an unfavourable territory since Chipolopolo are in the same group with Zimbabwe.
South Africa has been given priority because of the huge number of fans across the Limpopo.
“There is need for a way forward and we are most likely turning to South Africa for this Afcon qualifier (against Algeria). Zambia might be considered but we are in the same group (for Afcon qualifiers). Also remember the number of Zimbabweans living in South Africa.
“There are chances that we will play before full stadium in South Africa. Yes, an appeal will be made but I don’t think we are in a position to sort out what is needed before Matchday,” said the source.
Zifa announced the communication from CAF yesterday saying they are considering making an appeal while looking for other alternatives.
“While ZIFA is engaging CAF with a view to appeal this decision, we have asked stadium authorities to send us commitment letters detailing timelines on work that needs to be done before CAF comes for another inspection. Once we receive such commitment, we will send to CAF.
“In this moment we urge all stakeholders to work for a common cause for us to quickly right this wrong which takes away our sovereignty. We have been using stadiums which do not meet CAF and FIFA standards for a while now, but we need to put our heads together as a country to ensure that our stadiums are renovated to meet required standards.
“Meanwhile, we have also started the process of looking for an alternative venue in neighbouring countries to host our upcoming matches,” said Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela in a statement.
Barbourfields was provisionally certified to host international matches late last year but on condition of some touch ups while National Sports Stadium and Mandava were completely condemned.
“The decision by CAF comes against the background of a CAF stadium inspection which was conducted in November 2019 and the subsequent inspection report circulated on the 1st of December which stipulated areas of improvement for our three stadiums, Barbourfields, Mandava and the National Sports Stadium (NSS), to be fully homologated. While Mandava and NSS were completely struck off the roster, Barbourfields was provisionally certified on the condition that issues raised in the inspection report would be addressed,” said Gwesela.
Zifa said it has informed stadiums owners of the latest development and hope they will act to curb the crisis, albeit for the future.
“Stadium authorities were notified of CAF’s position and the urgent nature of the situation at hand. To date, neither of the three stadium authorities has requested us to invite CAF for another inspection, a position which CAF has said led to the decision to bar all three stadiums from hosting international matches.”