Zimbabwe face playing at neutral venues after CAF investigators condemn stadia

February 27 – Zimbabwe has been barred by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) from hosting any international matches until further notice after its main stadiums failed to meet required standards, throwing an upcoming African Nations Cup fixture and home World Cup qualifiers later in the year into jeopardy.

The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) confirmed that all three of their main stadia – Barbourfields in Bulawayo, Mandava in Zvishavane and the 60,000-capacity National Sports Stadium in Harare – had failed inspection visits by CAF last November.

The CAF bombshell comes just before the Warriors are set to take on defending AFCON champions Algeria next month with the game now set to be played at a neutral venue unless the Zimbabwe FA (ZIFA) successfully appeals CAF’s decision. Zimbabwe are due to meet the Algerians on March 31 in the return fixture of Group H back-to-back qualifiers but now faces the grim prospect of having to play all home games overseas.

“The Zimbabwe Football Association would like to inform the football fraternity and the nation that it has received correspondence from the Confederation of African Football that our stadiums do not meet Confederation of African Football (CAF) standards to host international matches,” ZIFA communications manager, Xolisani Gwesela said in a statement.

“Consequently, CAF has made a decision to bar ZIFA from using local stadiums in all upcoming international matches.”

“In this moment, we urge all stakeholders to work for a common cause for us to quickly right this wrong which takes away our sovereignty. We have been using stadiums which do not meet CAF and FIFA standards for a while now, but we need to put our heads together as a country to ensure that our stadiums are renovated to meet required standards.

“We unreservedly apologise to all football stakeholders for inconveniences that the decision has brought. We are hopeful that everyone who has influence to expedite the process of bringing our teams back home will do their part.”

The hard line stance by CAF comes at a time when authorities in Zimbabwe are facing severe difficulties over deteriorating standards of local sporting infrastructure. The domestic league is facing uncertainty ahead of the new season as most of the venues do not meet the requirements, while renovations are yet to start at the National Sports Stadium.

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