Renewed hope for NSS FILE PICTURE . . . Inspection of the National Sports Stadium for compliance with CAF requirements (Zifa)

Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter

THE Warriors look set to return to the National Sports Stadium when qualifiers for the 2026 Fifa World Cup resume next year after government allocated funds for the facility’s upgrade in the national budget presented by Finance Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube on Thursday.

Zimbabwe does not have a CAF-approved stadium for international matches, which forced the Warriors to host Nigeria in Rwanda last week. When the National Sports Stadium was banned, CAF inspectors pointed out a number of areas that needed to be addressed before international matches could be played again at the venue.

CAF wants the stadium fitted with individual bucket seats made of an unbreakable and non-flammable material; modern electronic turnstiles and automated systems and the setting up of a functional Venue Operations Centre with a good overview of the stadium equipped with CCTV monitors for security purposes.

CAF also recommended the refurbishment of changing rooms and the renovation of B Arena in line with CAF Training field infrastructure requirements.

The National Sports Stadium is a government facility under the Ministry of Local Government while Rufaro Stadium and Gwanzura, which fall under direct custody of the Harare City Council, have been out of use for more than five years due to lack of maintenance.

Now there is renewed hope for the National Sports Stadium and other sports infrastructure in the country after Government allocated $136.2 billion budget for the construction and rehabilitation of facilities.

Prof Ncube emphasised, in his speech, the need to give a facelift to the existing facilities while also channelling some funds to the construction of new multi-purpose amenities for sport, recreation and cultural creative industries within communities.

The Ministry of Sport, Arts and Recreation received a budget allocation of $136.2 billion from the ZW$58,2 trillion national budget, which was largely welcomed as pro-development.

“Sport, arts and cultural activities enable the youths to showcase their talents and increase their incomes, whilst also facilitating the building of strong and resilient communities,” he said while addressing the sports budget vote.

“The Budget will support collaboration with the private sector in interventions that will rehabilitate and renovate major existing sport facilities.

“Therefore, the 2024 National Budget proposes to allocate $136.2 billion to the Ministry of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture for the rehabilitation of major stadia, as well as for the construction of multi-purpose facilities for sport, recreation and cultural creative industries within communities that will promote social mixing and harmony,” said Ncube.

There is going to be a post-budget consultative meeting with the Ministry of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture, its parastatals and stakeholders next Tuesday.

This will be a physical, open session where feedback is expected from the stakeholders in the sports, arts and culture industries.

Then on Thursday will be a closed session for the consideration and adoption of draft report on the post-budget analysis for the Ministry of Sports, Recreation Arts and Culture and its parastatals and Stakeholders.

Once the budget has been adopted, particular interest would be given to infrastructure development with major stadiums such as the National Sports Stadium, Rufaro, Barbourfields and Gwanzura likely to benefit.

Government is working round the clock to ensure the National Sports Stadium is renovated to meet international standards as required by the continent’s football governing body, the Confederation of African Football, and FIFA.

This was revealed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Nicholas Moyo when addressing a parliamentary committee recently.

“Government is moving with all its plans to ensure that the National Sports Stadium meets the required standards. Government, through the ministry, is also engaging the private sector to assist and there will be an announcement soon in that regard,” Moyo said.

He added that by December there will be evidence of the work being done at the Stadium. “By December we will be talking of something else, it will be a completely different story,” he said.

Last year, the ministry had bid $107. 78 billion for renovation and construction of sporting facilities but was awarded a spending ceiling of $12.23 billion by the Treasury and the priorities included the National Sport Stadium, Khumalo and Magamba Hockey stadiums and the refurbishment of Aquatic Complex swimming pools and general-purpose halls.

The scope has not hanged.

“In 2024 the target is to refurbish the NSS, Magamba and Khumalo Hockey Stadiums and the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex. In respect of construction works, the target is to establish a national sports academy, comprising gymnasium, sport fields, boarding facilities, hotels and recreational amenities.

“In addition, there is a need to set up a sports museum starting with a feasibility study. Furthermore, multi-purpose facilities are earmarked for development at interact centres as well as centres of sport excellence,” Moyo said.

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