Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
CAF’S decision to turn down a request by ZIFA for the Warriors’ 2021 AFCON qualifier against Botswana to be played in the afternoon is likely to lump more costs on the cash-strapped association. The match, which was initially scheduled for Barbourfields in Bulawayo, has now been moved to Harare’s National Sports Stadium. ZIFA revealed yesterday they appealed to CAF to have the match played in the afternoon at Barbourfields after authorities in the City of Kings raised a red flag over the state of the floodlights at the stadium.
The Bulawayo City Council said the floodlights were last used a long time ago and there were no guarantees they would work to expectations during such a huge match.
ZIFA were then forced to move the match to the National Sports Stadium next Friday.
But, even that, comes with a huge cost with the budget for the two AFCON qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia this month now set to go beyond the proposed US$200 000 financial outlay. Electricity tariffs were recently hiked by 320 percent.
“Obviously, floodlights are a bit expensive,’’ ZIFA acting vice-president, Phil Machana, told The Herald. They usually do come at a cost because they consume more energy than normal lighting.
“So they, (ZESA), will let us know of the cost; whether we are going to have a flat figure or we pay for what we use. Remember, we have all stakeholders’ meetings where we share notes and lobby together when planning for such events.
“The meetings will start probably this Friday with the likes of the Sports Commission, Ministry of Sport, Ministry of Local Government, ZRP, ambulance services, the ticketing company and many other service providers. There is a big chance ZESA will be part of the meetings since we are going to invite them.
“All along we were saying the match was at Barbourfields until CAF turned us down because we couldn’t get guarantees from the Bulawayo City Council on the working condition of the floodlights.’’
ZIFA will also need to get guarantees from ZESA officials that power will be guaranteed at the giant stadium.
The country has been experiencing severe power shortages and ZESA have embarked on Stage Two of load shedding, resulting in most of the areas in the country going for up to 18 hours without electricity.
This followed technical challenges at Hwange over the weekend.
“We are aware of the electricity challenges facing the country but, as we usually do, the (ZIFA) office and the owners of the stadium, who are the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, will write to ZESA so that we have electricity dedicated to the venue on the day of the game,’’ said Machana.
“This is a routine thing we also do even for the afternoon games since we need to operate the PA system and other office work.
“But, this is a night game and we need the electricity more.’’
CAF have insisted the game should be played in the evening, kick-off 6pm, in sync with the rest of the AFCON qualifiers on the continent.
The continental football governing body apparently do not want to take chances since they have a small window to squeeze in the opening two matches of the 2021 AFCON qualifying campaign.
Zimbabwe are scheduled to play Zambia (away) four days later while Botswana host Algeria in Group H.
ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said they could not take the risk of staging next Friday’s match against Botswana at Barbourfields after failing to get guarantees from the Bulawayo City Council.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) wishes to advise the public and all stakeholders that the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Zimbabwe and Botswana, initially scheduled for Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo on November 15, has been moved to the National Sports Stadium in Harare,” said Gwesela.
“The decision to move the match follows communication from the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) on the issue of floodlights at Barbourfields Stadium where they could not guarantee their good working order as they were last put to use in 2017 during the COSAFA Women’s Championship.
“In the absence of such a guarantee and, in pursuit of conformance with their minimum requirements, CAF has switched the match to the National Sports Stadium to avoid potential of floodlight failure during the match — a situation that could trigger security risk to the fans, players and officials.”
ZIFA had wanted to take the game to Bulawayo in their efforts to rotate the national team games.
“ZIFA had pleaded with the continental mother-body to move the match to 1500hrs on the same day, but CAF could not grant the request as all qualifiers, across Africa, will be played at 1800hrs.
“We wish to unreservedly apologise to all football lovers and stakeholders in Bulawayo and surrounding areas for the inconvenience caused.
“The ZIFA Executive Committee commits to host the next international match which is to be played during day light at Barbourfields Stadium and that we remain committed to a rotation system that will allow all fans an opportunity to support their team in flesh and blood,” said Gwesela.
ZIFA have maintained the gate charges at $20 for the rest of the ground, $50 for bays 15-18 and $120 for the most expensive VIP tickets.