ZIFA are keeping their fingers crossed as they await CAF’s response this afternoon after the country’s association wrote to the continental football governing body seeking some reprieve over the blanket stadium ban imposed on the country’s facilities last week.
All stadiums in the country were last week deemed unfit to host international matches in a development which will see the Warriors’ Afcon qualifier against Algeria late this month played on neutral soil.
But after getting assurances from stadium authorities who have committed to address faults at both the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields, ZIFA last Friday wrote to CAF inviting them to re-inspect both venues in three weeks time.
ZIFA have been under increasing pressure following the blanket ban although the association do not own any stadium in the country.
Critics have argued why the mother association have not been working hand-in-glove with both the Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Public Works as well as the Bulawayo City Council who own the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields respectively.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ZIFA Northern Region Division One awards night last Friday, ZIFA president Felton Kamambo said all hope is not lost as the association has pleaded with CAF to consider coming for re-inspection of the two facilities.
“As the whole country is aware that all our stadiums were banned from hosting any international games. We sent our letter on Friday since grounds authorities have reassured us that they would have fixed the stadia by the time we are required to host Algeria. We are hopeful CAF will consider our plea and we will be successful so that we can host play our match against Algeria either at Barbourfields or the National Sports Stadium,” said Kamambo.
He said ZIFA has been given reassurances by both the Local Government Ministry as well as the Bulawayo City Council that all the flaws at both venues would have been addressed in the coming three weeks.
“Authorities have committed to renovate and address flaws noted by CAF inspection teams at both the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields. Authorities who own both these facilities have given us up to the 20th of March as the time they would have done everything with the exception of the bucket seats.
“That is the time which we also need CAF to come and conduct inspections of both facilities so that they can be approved to host our match against Algeria.”
Although Kamambo remains confident CAF will temporarily lift the ban and reconsider coming for the inspections before the Algeria match, ZIFA are also looking at the possibilities of taking the game to either South Africa or Zambia.
In fact, the ZIFA board are expected to arrive at the final decision this afternoon after receiving CAF’s correspondence.
“If the plea is not accepted by CAF, well we are also making arrangements so that our match is played either in Zambia or South Africa.
“By Monday (today) we will be in a position to know whether we will be playing our game against Algeria in Zimbabwe, Zambia or South Africa.
“If it is not in Zimbabwe, we are saying it has to be South Africa or Zambia because we have so many Zimbabweans living in both those countries so in terms of logistics, we won’t have it very difficult.
“Logistically, it is easier to play in Zambia. But we haven’t decided as yet. The board will sit down and deliberate on the issue on Monday (today) after we hear what CAF says of our appeal.”
Zimbabwe play Algeria in back-to-back ties later this month in what could be the deciding run in their bid to nail a berth at the 2021 AFCON finals scheduled for Cameroon. Zimbabwe are second in their qualifying group with four points, two behind Algeria while Botswana who have collected a single point and Zambia with no points after two rounds of fixtures will be angling to find their way back when they engage in back-to-back ties of their own.