Nyemudzai Kakore Sports Correspondent
THE Harare City Council acting director of housing and social development Mathew Marara has urged the council to release funds for the renovation of the artificial turf at Rufaro in time to complete the process before the 2017 Premier Soccer League season kicks-off. The turf has been blamed for causing injuries to players because of its current poor state. The City Council is set to upgrade the turf at a cost of $107 000 to meet international standards as well as bring more revenue to the city.

Of the $107 000, $55 000 will be channelled to the use of specialised machines for removing infill materials, while $52 000 will be used for the supply and introduction of additional rubber granules.

According to minutes of the Education, Health, Housing and Community Services and Licensing Committee, the upgrade should be completed before the commencement of the 2017 soccer season.

Marara said pressure continues to mount from football stakeholders to address the situation at Rufaro. “Of late, pressure from the relevant Ministries and the football fraternity had mounted, calling for the restoration of the Rufaro Stadium artificial turf with some even advocating for the removal of the artificial turf and calling for urgent replacement with natural grass.

“Council should ensure the timeous release of the funds to enable the contractor to get on site and start the restoration exercise to meet the Premier Soccer League scheduled commencement date of the 2017 season by March 2017,” reads minutes of the Education, Health, Housing and Community Services and Licensing Committee.

“Premier League clubs Dynamos and CAPS United and the Zimbabwe senior national team then re-located to the National Sports Stadium at the beginning of the 2014 football season hereby depriving the Council of potential ground revenue,” read the minutes.

Early this month, council indicated that they were consulting with the stakeholders as pressure mounted for them to remove the artificial turf at Rufaro.

The lifespan of the turf is between eight to 10 years after which it should be replaced.

In 2014, the contractors who installed the artificial surface recommended the regeneration of the pitch and proper maintenance to make it comfortable to play on and avoid injuries to players.

The process involved the complete removal, thorough cleaning and re-laying of the turf.

The rejuvenation process is part of the maintenance which is supposed to be done on the pitch at least every three years.

But this has not been the case with Rufaro since the turf was installed in 2008.

The refurbishment and upgrading of Rufaro into a modern stadium to meet international standards seems to be taking long and the council has so far failed to even install bucket seats at the facility.

Marara also proposed the repair of Mufakose stadium to meet ZIFA and Premier League requirements in order to host division one soccer matches by February 2017.

He said his department was desirous to bring back Division One football in the communities through rehabilitation of all pre-cast walled grounds.

“To date, no Division One matches are played in the local communities as most of the teams have opted to use low density suburbs, schools and sports club grounds thereby depriving their respective communities weekend sporting entertainment,” the minutes reads.

“After the funds have been availed, the director of works, Phillip Pfukwa, moves in to repair the change rooms, public toilets, precast wall, erect two small gates and repair the big exit gate to meet the stadium inspection deadline.”

Marara said since the launch of the open grounds restoration programme which has seen almost all grounds in high-density suburbs reclaimed, his department has levelled 13 open grounds and erected 10 pairs of football and netball goalposts with 15 football and netball goalposts set to be delivered to outstanding areas.

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