by MARCUS MUSHONGA
HARARE, (CAJ News) – ZIMBABWE is making frantic appeals to be allowed to use its banned national stadium to host matches since the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will be played without fans.
The senior national team is set to host defending champions, Algeria, in November behind closed doors.
The playing surface at the 60 000-seater National Sports Stadium (NSS) in Harare has been transformed while the medical, dressing rooms and anti-doping area as well as media centre have been improved.
However, bucket seats have not been installed to replace concrete terraces.
Thus, amid indications that fans would still not be allowed into stadia because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the government hopes the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will allow the Warriors match against Algeria to proceed at the local stadium.
“We hope to get a waiver from CAF to allow to use the National Sports Stadium, without bucket seats,” Tino Machakaire, the Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation Deputy Minister, told local media.
He was speaking after officials inspected the beleaguered venue to assess progress.
“Our hope to be allowed to use the stadium is based on the fact that the fixture against Algeria will be played without fans. Since everything else is almost in place, maybe, we wish to be allowed to play without the bucket seats,” Machakaire said.
The government official said the outbreak of COVID-19 in March and a subsequent lockdown had hindered the importation of bucket seats.
In February, CAF banned Zimbabwe from hosting international soccer games because of substandard stadia.
This has not only heaped pressure on the besieged Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) but was a source of embarrassment to the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Following the ban, Zimbabwe had been forced to seek an alternative venue outside its borders for the Algeria match in March.
The Orlando Stadium in Soweto, neighbouring South Africa was the likeliest to host the game before fixtures were called off after the COVID-19 outbreak.
– CAJ News