Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE Warriors technical department have raised the red flag over the pathetic state of the National Sports Stadium playing surface ahead of their final AFCON showdown against Congo-Brazzaville on March 24.
The giant stadium, which was recently condemned by CAF, has been in bad shape of late and several players have complained about the state of the pitch which led to the injury suffered by goalkeeper George Chigova against the DRC in another AFCON qualifier.
Chigova twisted his knee after slipping into a hole in the penalty box after just half-an-hour into the match and was sidelined for two weeks. Danny Phiri was also injured at the giant stadium.
CAF last month recommended “massive improvements” on the National Sports Stadium turf when they carried out inspections on the giant facility.
The stadium is run by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
And, despite the forthcoming high-profile game against the Red Devils of Congo, the stadium authorities have not taken action to ensure the ground will be in fine shape for the Warriors.
Last week, CAPS United had to cut the grass for their training session on Thursday ahead of their pre-season Charity match against Dynamos.
Warriors team manager, Wellington Mpandare, yesterday said the bumpy and uneven surface posed a huge risk to the players.
He also revealed there were complaints from the DRC players, too, about the state of the pitch. A meeting yesterday between representatives of the Warriors technical side and the stadium officials degenerated into chaotic scenes.
The stadium authorities kept insisting the pitch was in good shape, some of them have been working there for about 30 years, and the team should not try to mask their shortcomings by blaming the state of the field.
They also refused to let the Warriors technical team use the equipment they had brought to try and work on the pitch.
“What we are only saying is the pitch is not in the best condition and we would want our team to play on a good turf so that they enjoy home advantage,’’ said Mpandare.
“They won’t be at home with the current state of the turf. We have witnessed injuries here and there are fears it could recur.
“We had a meeting with the officials at the National Sports Stadium and, unfortunately, it was inconclusive because we couldn’t agree on many things.
“It’s sad that when we raised the issue about Chigova some of the officials said we wanted to blame the turf for our problem of not being good at football.
“That was irresponsible and smacks of sabotage by these guys who should be working to help the Warriors.
“They were saying they have no equipment and we helped source the equipment for them, from our benefactor prophet (Walter) Magaya, but it couldn’t work out because they came back to tell us that we needed to write a letter to the Ministry.
“We have done so but the response is still to come.’’
Officials from the stadium said they would not comment on the issue unless they get permission from the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
“We are not allowed to respond to journalists on these matters. You have to write a letter to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry requesting all that you want to know. “It’s only after we get their permission that we can talk about this,” said an official.
CAF wrote to ZIFA on February 24 condemning the state of the stadium. “The pitch condition must be massively improved, it should be green and marked clearly in white,” CAF noted in their report.
They also said there should be improvements on stadium lighting, sprucing up of the dressing rooms for both players and referees, the first aid room, doping room, and fixing the seats on the terraces.
CAF also warned they will continue to review the state of the stadium.