Stadium crisis hits Zimbabwe top-flight teams

The 2019 Zimbabwe top-flight season gets underway at the end of this month after a Charity Challenge match in Harare and a friendly match in Bulawayo last week, but there are concerns the Premier Soccer League could be forced to cram fixtures in fewer venues when the league starts as most stadia are still to meet the minimum fitness requirements.

Eternal cross-town foes Dynamos and CAPS United clashed in a Charity Challenge match at the National Sports Stadium in the capital while Highlanders faced Chicken Inn in a friendly match at Barbourfields in Bulawayo last Sunday.

But those two facilities as well as Mandava in Zvishavane, Gibbo in Chiredzi and Baobab in Mhondoro are the only venues available for an 18-team league with under two weeks before the season commences.

An initial inspection of the state of stadia in the country saw only those five meeting the enabling conditions to host Premiership matches.

There is hope, however, that two other grounds, Rufaro in Harare and Luveve in Bulawayo, could be in a usable state by March 30.

But, that still leaves a host of other teams who are neither from Bulawayo nor Harare in a quandary.

There is little hope for Mutare-based newly promoted side Manica Diamonds who are targeting to use the 3000-seater Vhengere Stadium in the close-by Rusape town.

The fact that the facility is owned and maintained solely by the local municipality means the team will have to wait while the authorities take their time to renovate the venue.

The same arena failed to make the grade in the first half of the 2018 season only to be cleared by the Zimbabwe Football Association First Instance Board during the mid-season break.

Relegated Mutare City, who are Manica Diamonds’ neighbours, were forced to play their home games 200km-plus away in Harare for the entire first stanza of the marathon and the latter are likely to face the same debacle.

Another of the new clubs in the top-flight, Mushowane Stars, who have indicated that they will be using their home-town Trojan Stadium in Bindura are also in the same boat with fellow top-tier debutants Manica Diamonds.

The facility is under renovation and it’s increasingly probable the repair work will not be finished before the season starts, a scenario which will force Mushowane to travel about 90km to play their home games in Harare.

It could be worse for Kariba team, ZPC Kariba, who will be forced, like what they did in 2014, to host their guests over 300km away from their base.

Nyamunga, their facility, has also failed the initial fitness examination.

The PSL chairman, Farai Jere, has indicated they will be sitting down with clubs with a view to addressing the problem.

He said all teams whether in the top-flight or lower divisions should eventually have their own stadiums they can maintain at their convenience rather than depend on rented venues.

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