ALMOST half a decade since it last played host to top-flight football action, Sakubva Stadium looks set to be the home ground of Manica Diamonds and Tenax FC following massive renovations done at Manicaland’s ceremonial home of soccer.
Domestic Premiership football is expected to resume in the near future.
The derelict state of football match venues across the country has been a major talking point as the country’s central authority, through the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), granted the resumption of high risk sports — including football — under strict Covid-19 health guidelines.
But for Sakubva Stadium, the script is different.
Its custodians, Mutare City Council, have gone beyond expectations in keeping the match venue in shape even when no revenue was being generated from the facility during the year long lockdown period.
With newly constructed changing rooms for players and match officials that come with bathing space for almost every individual, doping room, well furnished though small boardroom, newly designated interior parking space for limited club and officials’ vehicles, and a tunnel, Sakubva Stadium can easily pass to host top-flight football matches.
In comparison to a number of stadia across the country, Sakubva has maintained its turf to acceptable conditions and work on the drainage system is yielding encouraging results.
The match venue was last Tuesday inspected by the Zifa First Instance Body (FIB) officials who also commended the local authority for the effort they put into maintaining the facility.
They, however, made a few recommendations which will be subject to scrutiny in the final inspection.
Qolisani Gwesela, the Zifa spokesperson who was in the company of PSL official, Rodwell Thabe during the Sakubva Stadium inspection last Tuesday in their capacity as FIB representatives, said: “We are really impressed by the work carried out by Mutare City Council. It is evident that they did not just rush to do things when they heard we were coming. There was work being done all along.
“However, we have made some recommendations that we hope will be amended before we come for our next inspection in two weeks time.”
Gwesela admitted that the state of match venues across the country is deplorable.
“We are going around the country carrying out these stadia inspections and the state of our stadia across the country is deplorable. At least we are grateful to Government for the support that they have been giving in refurbishing some of the stadia in recent months. However, we sincerely implore local authorities to ensure that stadia are prioritised in their budgets,” said the Zifa publicist.
As part of their homework, Mutare City Council were tasked to ensure that there is a live match television coverage structure as well as improve on the media space inside the stadium.
The local authority was also tasked to look into the construction of a conference room apart from the small boardroom already in place.
When the FIB inspected Sakubva Stadium, the water clogged turf exposed its poor drainage, but work to open up a blocked system was already underway and a follow up visit by this newspaper early this week revealed a great improvement on the state of the turf as the wet surface had dried up.
Mutare City Council spokesperson, Spren Mutiwi, said the local authority will forge ahead with its initiative to make the stadium meet minimum required standards.
“It has been a very difficult road, but we are happy when people appreciate our efforts. We will go ahead in sparing the few resources at our disposal to ensure that we meet the minimum required standards.”
Manica Diamonds chairman, Masimba Chihowa, expressed confidence that they will be using Sakubva Stadium as their home ground when competitive football matches resume.
“We are absolutely confident that we will be using Sakubva Stadium as our home ground when competitions begin. We are happy that the custodians of the facility have done extremely well under difficult conditions to ensure that the match venue is well maintained. We really appreciate that and this is certainly good news to all progressive residents, not only Mutare, but Manicaland at large.”
His Tenax FC counterpart, Stefani Masina, was singing from the same hymn book.
“This is something we have long concluded as a club executive that Sakubva Stadium will be our home ground. We are excited that the local authority did its part and from what we have seen on the ground, we have no reason to shift our plans to use the facility.”
Football was allowed to return this week after the SRC sent out protocols for resumption to Zifa and other National Sports Associations (NSA) that had been classified as high risk.
Speaking during a virtual media briefing on Monday morning, SRC chairperson, Gerald Mlotshwa, confirmed that football and 29 other sports codes could be back as early as Thursday (yesterday).
“We have sent out a communication to the NSAs with protocols for the resumption of sport, what we have basically said is this is what we want can you agree and are you in a financial state to resume.
“We have given them up until Thursday to respond and if they agree then they can resume, it has been a long road, but we are now here. The changing situation on the ground has also helped,” said Mlotshwa.