PSL clubs keep fingers crossed . . . stadium inspection continues The current state of the pitch at Simba Bhora’s Wadzanai Stadium in Shamva.

Eddie Chikamhi-Senior Sports Reporter

LAST year’s league runners-up Manica Diamonds and ambitious newboys Simba Bhora are expecting to play their home games on home turf this season following progress made in their stadium renovations. 

The 2024 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season is scheduled to start on March 9.

Manica Diamonds and Simba Bhora played all their home games away from home last season with a huge impact on their pockets and overall team performance. 

Simba Bhora’s Wadzanai Stadium failed to meet the minimum requirements and they had to travel to Baobab for their home games in their debut Premiership season, in which they had to fight hard to survive relegation. 

Manica Diamonds, on the other hand, counted themselves unlucky after finishing second in the championship race, and they believed things would have been different had they played their home games in Mutare. 

But there is a ray of hope ahead at the start of the 2024 season. 

The ZIFA’s first Instance Body, which is responsible for stadium inspection was in Mutare yesterday, where they ran the rule over Sakubva. 

The stadium inspectors, who are expected to travel to Shamva on March 4 for a similar exercise on Wadzanai Stadium, will compile a report in the coming days chronicling which grounds will be suitable for use this season. 

Simba Bhora spokesperson Charles Nyatsine yesterday said Wadzanai was almost ready for topflight football. 

“We are 90 percent-plus complete, judging by the work that has been put in, considering the recommendations made by FIB on their first visit. 

“The stadium is good to go. The changing rooms are now fully furnished, the grandstands are complete and we have also constructed rows of terraces opposite the VIP,” he said. 

Simba Bhora has taken delivery of the first batch of between 250 and 300 bucket seats that are being installed at the VIP and VVIP stands.

“The first batch of bucket seats are being installed at the VVIP stands. Work is currently underway as we speak. It a matter of working on the recommendations made by FIB on their first inspection,” said Nyatsine. 

“The turf was lagging, it needed a few touch-ups and we are busy working on it. We have hired an expert to spruce up the lawn and it’s coming up nice. 

“By the time the inspection team arrives, it will be up to scratch and we are happy about that. 

“Almost everyone here is anxious to have Premiership matches being played in Shamva. The good thing is that our first game will be away and should there be any hiccups with our stadium, we will at least have some more time to correct. But we don’t anticipate any challenges,” said Nyatsine.

Unlike Wadzanai which has never hosted top-flight football, Sakubva has had challenges over the years leading to intermittent bans from hosting top-flight football. 

The Mutare venue was closed for football action the whole of last season leading to Manica Diamonds having to travel at least 300km to Gibbo to host their opponents. 

The inspectors were at Sakubva yesterday, giving hope to the Mutare residents and their home team Manica Diamonds. 

“We are so excited with the developments that have taken place at the ground,” said Manica Diamonds chairman Masimba Chihowa.

“The condition of the pitch looks good and all the other aspects have been attended to. We are happy with the prospects of playing in Mutare again. But we have to wait for the verdict from the First Instance Body,” said Chihowa. 

“The forthcoming season promises to be good because the travelling was hectic; it was expensive and inconvenient and now we expect at least to get some revenue during our home games. It’s good for business,” said Chihowa.

Yadah’s newly constructed The Heart stadium, owned by Yadah is in pristine condition and could be inspected by the FIB is also due for inspection. 

The stadium was officially opened by President Mnangagwa late last year and could bring relief to some Harare teams that have been facing stadium crisis. With the National Sports Stadium doubtful for the first few games of the season, The Heart Stadium could bring relief to the PSL. Yadah chairman Everson Chatambudza is excited by the benefits expected from the investment that was sunk into the project. 

“I think our stadium is in good condition. We are expecting the inspectors any time soon and we are ready for kick-off,” said Chatambudza. The Premier Soccer League is keeping its fingers crossed that more stadiums will be homologated this year to ease the crisis that haunted domestic football in the last two years.

The other stadiums that could be used for Premiership football this year include Nyamhunga, Mandava, Colliery, Green Fuel Arena, Barbourfields, Bata, Luveve, Baobab, and the National Sports Stadium, which is currently undergoing major renovations to get CAF and FIFA certification. Minister of Sport, Arts, Recreation and Culture Kirsty Coventry said the Government was grateful to private players who have been investing in sports facilities of late. 

“We can’t do anything without the private sector,” she said during her tour of the Geo Pomona recreational facilities. 

“We know that government is trying to stretch the budget as much as possible, but we need the private players and we are thankful for these private players to be leading the way and showing that sport plays a huge part in our communities and our everyday lives. 

“To have facilities that will be open to the public to come in and make use of is, I want to say, a big thank you from my Ministry and the government because we can’t do it by ourselves. “We need that buy-in from the corporates and the private sector . . . we will be open to any investments of that kind.”

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