Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation has seized control of Harare’s National Sports Stadium (NSS) amid the crisis concerning stadia in the country.

The 60,000-seat NSS, Zimbabwe’s largest stadium, is already government-owned but Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry, said ownership and operations will be switched from the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to her organisation.

The capital city’s stadium first opened in 1987, but has not received any renovation work since 2010. The state of the stadium, along with others in the country, last month led the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to ban the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) from hosting international matches.

The decision was made following a CAF stadium inspection in November and a subsequent report which was issued on December 1. The report pinpointed areas of improvement for three stadia: Barbourfields, Mandava and the NSS.

The government last week pledged $37.7m (£29.1m/€33.3m) towards the refurbishment of the three stadia, leading to ZIFA to call on CAF to rethink its decision. ZIFA’s appeal was rejected by CAF meaning that Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, was yesterday (Tuesday) named as the venue for Zimbabwe’s next home match, an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Algeria on March 29.

Writing on Twitter, Coventry, a highly-decorated swimmer and current International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, said: “ZIFA have failed to assure CAF that the work we are doing in the stadiums will safeguard our national teams playing home games in Zimbabwe. ZIFA now have to come up with a stadium for our teams to play home games outside of Zimbabwe.

“Good news: It has been agreed that ownership + operations of the National Sports Stadium in Zimbabwe will be transferred to Ministry of Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation. We have the experience + passion to use this opportunity for Zimbabwe to become a sporting powerhouse.”

Image: Jonathan N. Wakeling