THE postponement of the 2021 African Cup of Nations football qualifiers has come as a huge blessing for Zimbabwe who now need to vigorously work on their stadia and pursue the right to play their Group H match against Algeria at home.
The Warriors were scheduled to play the reigning African champions at a neutral turf in South Africa later this month after the Confederation of African Football had condemned all the country’s football stadiums as unfit for international matches.
But CAF on Friday coincidentally gave Zimbabwe a ray of hope after postponing the matches indefinitely amid pressure from the national associations and foreign clubs where most of the players ply their trade over the threat of coronavirus.
ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, yesterday said the Government and other stakeholders should take advantage of the window to continue fixing the shortcomings that were identified by CAF at the venues.
Stakeholders led by the Government have shown a great deal of commitment and have availed resources for the refurbishment of Barbourfields and the National Sports Stadium.
“Of course it’s an opportunity to move with speed to ensure that our grounds will be able to meet the required standards.
“We have to continue putting our heads and resources together as we have been doing in the past few weeks. It was going to be a burden having to organise and play a home match on foreign soil.
“This is a chance to continue pursuing the fight to ensure we get our sovereignty back. So we have to make sure that we don’t tire on our part as Zimbabwe in the work that we had set ourselves to do.
“We have to continue doing whatever we have been doing in making sure that these stadia meet the required standards by CAF so that we can play our games at home.
“We are very grateful to the Government for availing the resources. We also want to thank the contractors and the workmen who have been labouring round the clock to make sure our stadiums meet the CAF standards,” said Gwesela.
ZIFA now have to wait for the announcements of the new dates for the back-to-back clashes against the Desert Foxes of Algeria with high hopes refurbishments would have completed at Barbourfields and the National Sports Stadium.
Hosting the Algerians in South Africa was going to be costly for ZIFA who had hinted that they would have required a US$200 000 budget for the match.
Deputy Minister of Youth, Arts, Sport and Recreation, Tinoda Machakaire, told our sister paper, The Sunday Mail, at the weekend that the Government will do everything to make sure Zimbabwe will not play their home matches in a foreign country.
“Inasmuch as CAF has banned our stadiums, we are working around the clock to make sure the situation is rectified, and everything comes out well.
“We (ministry) will also try to and see if there are more things that were not done correctly and fix those, too,” Machakaire said.
The deputy minister also appealed to stakeholders to come together, open lines of communication and move in the same direction.
“For us to rebuild our Zimbabwe, we must work as a team, work together. We might err along the way, everyone makes mistakes, but we can correct those mistakes through better communication.
“We can sit down and share our views, so that we improve our country,’’ said Machakaire.
Barbourfields has the biggest chance to host the match because the refurbishments needed are less compared to the National Sports Stadium.
ZIFA have been struggling securing the venue for the match after they failed to secure Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg last week.
The association was still to agree with the authorities in South Africa for nearby Dobsonville stadium which had become the Plan B. CAF’s decision to suspend all football activities was a huge blessing in disguise.
ZIFA last week also wrote to CAF seeking postponement of first match that was scheduled for March 26 in Blida because of the threat of the coronavirus.
Algeria is one of the hardest hit places on the continent after the confirmed cases of the disease rose to 37 at the weekend.
The postponement also affected the FIFA Women’s Under-20 World Cup Qualifiers which were scheduled to resume this week.
The Zimbabwe Under-20 women’s team that had been preparing for a date against Ethiopia will break camp today while the CHAN team will continue in camp in line with coach Zdravko Logarusic’s 10-day preparation plan.
CAF has not made a decision yet on the staging of the CHAN tournament in Cameroon next month.