Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
GIANTS Dynamos have welcomed the decision by Harare City Council to remove the artificial turf at Rufaro this season and replace it with natural grass.
It may have taken many years for their voice to be heard, but Dynamos team manager Richard Chihoro yesterday said they have been relieved by the decision to get rid of the worn-out turf at the stadium that has been home to DeMbare for many decades.
Dynamos, who have adopted Rufaro as their home ground because of the centrality of the venue, have been at the forefront of lobbying to the authorities to attend to the playing surface after experiencing numerous injuries on their players due to the hardness of the turf emanating from lack of maintenance. Chihoro said the turf had become a danger to the players.
“I think the council have done a good thing. It’s very sensible considering that this turf was in such bad state that we were having too many injuries.
“Rufaro is our home ground but you couldn’t train two consecutive days at that stadium in preparation for a home match. The turf was hard and it became worse especially when it was hot because it appeared like it absorbed too much heat.
“It had become a big risk to consistently play on that ground because players would complain of knee and ankle injuries. Most of the times, by August we would have a big number of our players grounded.
“So I applaud the move. I think the idea to have artificial turf was good but then ours is different from what other countries have probably because it lacked maintenance,” said Chihoro.
Harare City Council spokesperson Michael Chideme yesterday said the authorities ordered the removal of the turf in response to the complaints by the Premiership clubs.
Contractors have already been given the green light to start working on the stadium, which in 2013 was condemned by the Confederation of African Football after the Champions League match between Dynamos and Correctional Services of Lesotho.
The synthetic turf pitch, called Xtreme Turf, was donated to ZIFA by FIFA in 2008 under the FIFA Win in Africa with Africa Project.
But it had deteriorated to unacceptable levels due to lack of maintenance.
There were plans to rehabilitate the surface following recommendations three years ago by a FIFA researcher Paul Osei Owusu of Loughbrough University and the contractors ACT Global who installed the turf in 2008.
Council had set aside $107 000 for the rehabilitation work but there was a new resolution to remove the turf altogether. Chideme said the turf is likely to be moved to Gwanzura or Dzivaresekwa Stadium.
“The turf will be removed because of the numerous complaints from players and coaches about injuries that were being caused by playing on this surface.
“Rehabilitation was another option but it was not going to last as much as we would have liked. Obviously it was going to add a few more years to the lifespan but then it was only sensible to revert to grass at this moment. So the artificial turf could be moved to Gwanzura,” said Chideme.
The turf was supposed to be combed regularly and be filled with rubber granules to keep it in good condition but that has not been the case. Dynamos captain Ocean Mushure also welcomed the decision by the authorities.
“This is sweet news to some of us but I would also like to believe it has come very late. There have been complains from long back about the state of the turf. Many players got injured. It’s not about Dynamos only but I think many players from other teams will also be happy with this development,” said Mushure.
Harare City Football Club also use the stadium for the home matches and their striker Martin Vengesai believes the decision by the authorities is good for the players.
“This is a positive step because the turf had become a bit harder hence some players complained of injuries while others took long to heal.
“So it’s somehow an advantage although the artificial turf also had its own benefits. For a passing team like ours the turf was level and we would complete many passes playing on the turf. But because of the hardness it seems the advantages outweigh the advantages,” said Vengesai.