Picture: 123RF/TOMASZ TRYBUS
Picture: 123RF/TOMASZ TRYBUS

Zimbabwe has no stadium fit to host international football matches and might be forced to  play all its home football matches in SA.

Zimbabweans are enduring daily shortages of cash, the staple mealie meal, fuel and electricity, but the stadium ban is the latest low in the crisis-ridden country.

The football-crazy nation has an array of stars who play abroad. Marvelous Nakamba plays in the English Premier League and many players make their living  in SA including the Kaizer Chiefs duo of Khama Billiat and Willard Katsande.

These stars will, however, not get the opportunity to play for their country at home after the Confederation of African Football (Caf) this week condemned all the country’s stadiums as unfit to host any games.

In a statement, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) said it has received correspondence from Caf that the country’s stadiums “do not meet Confederation of African Football standards to host international matches”. 

“Consequently, Caf has made a decision to bar Zifa from using local stadiums in all upcoming international matches.”

Officials at Zifa said the most plausible option for Zimbabwe was to host its international matches in SA.

The country’s next international match is against Algeria in March and it is not expected that Caf will have overturned the stadium bans by that time.

For many Zimbabweans, the decision was hard to swallow. Many said it underlined the extent to which the country had gone down the drain.

Sports broadcaster Steve Vickers said the stadium ban was “embarrassing and will be costly for Zimbabwe, but it comes as a result of inaction by the authorities”.

Zimbabweans expressed their outrage on Twitter, taking a swipe at arts and sports minister Kirsty Coventry for allowing the situation to degenerate.

On Thursday, Coventry, a former Olympic gold medallist who was appointed minister in 2018, responded to the criticism by promising to “fix the mess”.

 “We all know that the stadiums in Zimbabwe have been deteriorating for ages but it is now my responsibility to make sure we fix this mess. Overnight solutions will not work but know that I am on it. I will keep you posted so don’t listen to other nonsense out there,” she tweeted.

In November last year, Caf inspected Zimbabwe’s stadiums and condemned its largest facility, the 60,000-seat National Sports Stadium in Harare, but temporarily certified Barbourfields stadium in Bulawayo on condition that it was renovated.

However, Barbourfields was struck off after the latest Caf inspection, with the stadium’s owner, the Bulawayo city council, saying it had no foreign currency to import materials needed to upgrade the ground.