IN May 2017, FC Platinum returned to their home ground of Mandava Stadium when they faced Yadah FC after the Zvishavane-based side had been using Maglas Stadium, while Mandava underwent renovations which included the laying of a new turf and the refurbishment of the drainage system.
Renovations at Mandava Stadium included demolition of the eastern bay and the VIP tribune and erecting new stands.
At that time, the VVIP tribune had bucket seats fitted, the pitch in excellent shape, while the commentary box and the media centre were functional.
This was not a first for the small mining town of Zvishavane.
Shabanie FC which played against St Michel of the Seychelles in 2002 in the then Africa Cup Winners Cup, refurbished Maglas Stadium and passed the CAF test although they failed it to make it to the second round of the competition.
Fast forward, in 2016 upon the promotion of Ngezi Platinum Stars into the Premier Soccer League, the club bankrolled the construction of a stadium at the tune of about US$650 000.
It was completed in a record time of five months and the Mhondoro venue is widely regarded as one of the best in the country.
Only last year, Ngezi Platinum Stars reserved in excess of US$350 000 for the upgrading and expansion of their home ground — Baobab — in Mhondoro-Ngezi, to meet CAF standards and make the venue ideal even for national team games.
In the south western end of Manicaland Province, GreenFuel are putting final touches to their Sports Arena on which the ethanol producing concern poured close to US$2 million to revamp the facility.
GreenFuel have only played one match in the top-flight league and very soon they will be back at their home ground as it undoubtedly meets the required standards.
Sadly, for Manicaland’s provincial capital of Mutare, the case is not for the faint-hearted!
Manicaland’s ceremonial home of football — Sakubva Stadium — remains suspended from hosting top-flight league matches after the Premier Soccer League released fixtures indicating that Manica Diamonds’ encounter against Triangle will be played at Gibbo Stadium in Triangle on Sunday.
Manica Diamonds were supposed to play their first home match for the Premiership 2023 season against Triangle at Sakubva Stadium on Sunday, but the encounter was moved to Gibbo Stadium in Triangle as the Mutare facility was deemed unfit for that purpose.
Gibbo Stadium remains the only nearest option for Manica Diamonds, given the congestion at the National Sports Stadium in Harare where five clubs are using the same match venue as their home ground.
Manica Diamonds FC are in their third season in the top-flight league, but the club has somehow faced the consistent humiliation of being forced to play home matches away from home as Sakubva Stadium is often condemned by football authorities.
While Manica Diamond’s financiers — the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) — have shown commendable interest in sponsoring sport, just like their predecessors in diamond mining, Mbada Diamonds also did the same with their now defunct flamboyant annual tournament — the Mbada Diamonds Cup — the diamond mining companies have done virtually nothing in making sure that Manicaland in general and Mutare in particular has a single sports facility fit to host top-flight matches.
Sports personalities interviewed by this newspaper generally felt diamond mining companies need to be serious about leaving lasting legacy of infrastructural development, especially in the area of sport where they have shown interest.
Paul Sigauke, a staunch Chelsea supporter, said: “I think it is high time that diamond mining companies become serious about leaving a lasting legacy of finite resource that they are extracting here. Yes, we appreciate the bankrolling of a team that is based here, but once the team collapses what are we left with?”
Munyaradzi Zinomwe, a die-hard Dynamos and Liverpool fan, said: “Surely we should have a stadium of world class standards by now that should have been constructed by the diamond mining companies.
That will be something good and commendable, given that the resource they are extracting is finite and at some point we will not have diamond mining to talk about.”
Contacted for comment, ZCDC spokesperson, Sugar Chagonda, said: “It is good to have our own stadium, but for now it is not within our short term plan. There are a number of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects competing for resources.
“While the company is committed to support the sport and recreation cluster, we have a shared vision with our communities that there are other key areas that need urgent attention. So ZCDC, as a responsible and responsive organisation will prioritise such a facility in the long term plan.”
For now, nostalgic fans of the game of football in Manicaland can only be content with looking back at some of the best sports venues that were dotted around the province.
Way back, Sports Oval located in Mutare’s Old Location, better known as OTS, was a citadel of fierce and explosive ghetto football matches where stars who were nurtured are too many to mention by names.
It was a perfect host for even the highest league competitive league matches.
For the record, the venue, which has deteriorated over the years owing to neglect, lies just behind the Housing and Community Services Department of Mutare City Council – the very custodians of sports facilities in the city.
Way back, Chisamba Grounds was a decent football match venue that could host exciting matches, much to the excitement of locals, not only in the MaJapan section of Sakubva, but people, schools and clubs, used to came from all over Manicaland to play football matches at this venue.
Way back, Vengere Stadium in Rusape, Manicaland’s second most developed town, was a theatre of dreams that gave us 2008 and 33rd soccer star of the year in Evans ‘Morocco’ Chikwaikwai among many others football stars.
Way back, Gaza Stadium in the farming town of Chipinge, that gave us a galaxy of football stars that include Eddie ‘Man’ozho’ Dube and Lovemore Maphuya among many others, had lush green turf.
But somehow, the truth of the matter is that local authorities have failed fans and sportsmen in maintaining these facilities.
This is the sad reality of the state of our football venues across Manicaland and as the beat goes on, no one seems to care!