Rufaro Stadium will not host any international matches this year after Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume revealed yesterday that the council will only be able to implement Confederation of African Football (CAF) recommendations at the end of the 2024 Premier Soccer League season.
The facility has been condemned by CAF for the umpteenth time although it remains closer to be cleared to host international games should authorities attend to the few issues raised by the continental football governing board.
But, and understandably so, the Harare City Council is currently prioritising the revamping of the venue that last hosted a Premiership game in 2019 to a standard where it can be allowed to stage local top-tier games.
With CAF recommending that the turf need reconstruction, Mafume said the municipality will only be able to do so during the second phase of the re-development works at the stadium that begins at the end of the impending 2024 season in November or December.
That effectively eliminates any chances for the stadium to host any international games this year should CAF stick to their guns. And this could mean the country will have to turn to Yadah’s Heart Stadium, especially for junior national teams, as the National Sports Stadium has also not been cleared to host international games.
The 5 000-seater stadium built at the Yadah hotel in Waterfalls was not inspected by CAF when Rufaro and the National Sports Stadium were examined last week, but plans are underway to invite the experts to also assess the venue.
Stadium owner Prophet Walter Magaya remains confident the Heart Stadium will tick the required boxes for it to be certified fit to host international games and he is ready to avail the facility to the national teams and clubs representing the country in continental competitions. “At the moment we are putting access roads from the Mbare direction. We have also procured more bucket seats as we want to expand the stadium into a 10 000-seater,” said Magaya.
“We have built this stadium with CAF requirements in mind and we are confident that once we put what I have said into place, we will be able to have the stadium cleared to host international games.
“Like what I have always said, the stadium is not mine, it’s for football and the country so we will work very hard to have it available for CAF matches”.
Speaking at a briefing at Rufaro yesterday, Mafume said the council was working flat out to ensure that the stadium is ready to host Premiership matches.
“We will reconstruct the pitch (as per CAF recommendations) in the second phase of the refurbishment in the off season. Remember that it was an artificial pitch, sometime back and we are trying to fully reshape it,” said Mafume.
“This stadium is closer to hosting international matches in the second phase, and I repeat, in the second phase, not now.
“At the moment, once football stakeholders, including PSL and ZIFA, approve, we should be ready to host local matches.
“We are doing the changing rooms and also the toilets. We have all the material required for that job. What we are simply doing is fitting the material starting from this week.
“There was a bit of interruption in between, but it’s all systems go now. Football is coming back to its home”.
He said the City of Harare have already identified Chinese contractors to work on the bays with 1 000 bucket seats expected to be installed in the coming weeks.
“We have already contracted some people to do the seats. We should sign the agreements by the end of this week to beat the Chinese holidays that are coming soon.
“So we are running around to get the contractor to sign an agreement and we also want them to bring the mould here so that they can also do seats for other stadiums like Gwanzura, Mabvuku’s Number 1 Grounds and Dzivaresekwa.
“That is the scope of the work which we want to carry out. We are putting aluminium goal posts, they are already here and the company should be here today (yesterday) or tomorrow (today) to fit them. The electronic turnstiles have been manufactured and we are redoing the gates to fit the turnstiles.
“Dynamos and CAPS United have agreed to have 15 turnstiles and we will try and speed up the process. We have bought new dugouts. They are currently at Beira. They were supposed to come by train, but the trains are currently overwhelmed by other tasks so we are trying to have them come by road.
“We have done the changing rooms, they have been expanded and tiled. We will put the finishing touches in due course after consultations with the key tenants which are Dynamos and CAPS United. We have been asked to put five toilets (by CAF) in the changing rooms and we are going to do that.”
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