Zimbabwe’s football authorities are hoping they can soon return to international competition after the government committed more than $3m towards the renovation of sporting facilities, including the 60,000-capacity National Sports Stadium.
The state of the stadium, along with others in the country, led the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to ban the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) from hosting international matches in early 2020. Bucket seats, modern electronic turnstiles, and a venue operations centre (VOC) are some of the outstanding issues that need to be addressed, according to FIFA and CAF inspectors.
It is hoped that work to be carried out during 2023 could see a return to international football for Zimbabwe.
The Government has set aside ZWL$1.2bn (£2.7m/$3.3/€3.0) in the 2023 National Budget for upgrading sporting facilities across the country.
In his Budget, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mthuli Ncube, said some of the priorities include the National Sport Stadium, Khumalo and Magamba Hockey stadiums and refurbishment of Aquatic Complex swimming pools.
Acting ZIFA president Gift Banda said the renovation of the national stadium should be expedited so that it meets international standards when ZIFA’s suspension by FIFA is lifted.
He said in a statement: “The emphasis on Zimbabwe’s return to international football has been that when we do so we go back having sorted our issues, having structures and infrastructure in place. We’ve also been working on mending relations with key stakeholders and Government is one such key stakeholder.
“It is good to note that the Government is serious about getting the National Sports Stadium to the required standards. This means when our suspension is lifted we’ll defend our pride right within our borders. Hopefully when we return to international football the National Sports Stadium will be ready for us to play international football competitively.”
Minister Ncube said: “With regards to sport and recreation, $1.2bn has been set aside for the rehabilitation and upgrading of sports facilities and recreational centres, with the aim of modernisation to conform to international standards.”