Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
THE Confederation of African Football have barred Zifa from using the National Sports Stadium for the next two official home matches following the chaos that led to loss of life and injuries at the giant stadium recently.
Zifa spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said the association were sanctioned by the Caf Disciplinary Board yesterday in terms of Caf Statutes and Regulations and Articles 82, 83.1 and 151 of the Caf Disciplinary Code.
However, one match from the sanctions has been suspended in the event that a similar incident does not occur during the next 12 months.
Zimbabwe’s next home game is the national Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations final qualifier against South Africa, which has been rescheduled to September.
Gwesela said the association were yet to respond to the ruling but it looks the match will be taken to Barbourfields, one of the three grounds that have been approved by Caf to host international matches.
Mandava is the other stadium with the Caf certification.
“We have just received the judgment and, unfortunately, we haven’t decided on the way forward yet,’’ said Gwesela.
“But we have other stadia that are homologated by Caf and these are Barbourfields and Mandava.
“Rufaro used to host internationals but it would need to be re-inspected if it has to be homologated.
“As an association we have to abide by the ruling but the bottom line is we need to ensure such incidents don’t occur in the future.
“As Zifa, we tried our best in organising for that particular match and it’s unfortunate we had that incident.’’
Chaos reigned supreme prior to the game when Zimbabwe hosted Congo-Brazzaville in their final Afcon qualifier on March 24.
Although the Warriors won the match, to book their place at the upcoming Afcon tournament in Egypt, the mood was dampened by the stampede that led to the death of one supporter, Egna Nyamadzawo, and injuries to several others.
The penalty should have come as a timely reminder for Zifa to improve their event management as fans and officials experience the same commotion whenever big matches are hosted here.
The chaos at the gates has been blamed largely on the poor gate controls.
It has also been noted that the National Sports Stadium needs vast renovations to meet the standard safety and security requirements.
Gwesela said they will continue to lobby with the authorities to effect the necessary upgrades, especially at the entry points, so that the giant facility becomes safer for big events.
“We will need to continue to work with all our stakeholders, especially in the development of the infrastructure, to meet the standard safety and security requirements.
“We attended a seminar in Johannesburg two weeks ago on new Fifa initiative aims to enhance stadium management and safety standards in football and these were some of the things discussed.
“The National Sports Stadium needs to be upgraded to meet the standard requirements.
“We will continue to appeal to the authorities to invest more in the renovation of the ground at least to get at par with some of the standard security features,” said Gwesela.