Govt throws weight behind FOG campaign

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Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter

THE Government have come out in full support of the FOG (Fix Our Grounds) campaign, which was launched by The Herald to highlight the pathetic state of the country’s football stadiums, in a massive boost to the grand initiative.

Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister, Kirsty Coventry, said the campaign should continue and also be extended to other sports facilities which badly need to be spruced up after years of being neglected by those tasked with maintaining them.

The Herald, alarmed by how the country’s major football stadiums have been reduced into shells because of poor maintenance, and conscious of its role to highlight such unacceptable levels of negligence by those tasked with keeping the facilities in good shape, launched the FOG campaign two weeks ago.

There was an overwhelming response, and support, for the FOG campaign, as more shocking images of how the country’s football stadiums have been left to rot and collapse, emerged.

Zimbabweans, both at home and across the globe, threw their full support behind the FOG campaign inspired by the need to force authorities to, at least, wake up from their slumber and start fixing the country’s football grounds.

However, as the city fathers struggled to contain the backlash, after years of lying that they were going to invest thousands of dollars into renovating Gwanzura and also giving Rufaro a facelift, more shocking images emerged of how other football stadiums have suffered from neglect.

Dzivarasekwa Stadium, which used to host Premiership matches and provided a home for Monomotapa in their successful championship-winning campaign in 2008, and Lengthens during their time in the top-flight league, is now barely recognisable as a proper stadium.

Part of the pre-cast security wall has fallen, weeds have invaded the sitting bays and it looks like the playing surface was last given any attention a decade ago.

Gwanzura has not hosted a domestic Premiership match in the last five years, after the top-flight league officials raised the red flag that their players could be exposed to diseases, when raw sewage from the dressing rooms and public toilets began to flow onto the playing surface.

Harare City Council officials were forced to scramble some workers to go and remove weeds which have invaded the sitting bays at Gwanzura.

Chibuku Stadium in Chitungwiza is also in a similar state of disrepair, three years after the authorities there turned down a proposed deal, which would have seen Yadah Stars renovate the stadium into what the club owner, prophet Walter Magaya, said would be a reasonable football ground.

Magaya said he was ready to throw hundreds of his construction workers on site to renovate the stadium but had a change of heart after the Chitungwiza Town officials said they were only prepared to offer him a three-year lease.

Yadah Stars were also required to pay a monthly fee to the council, even though they would have been the ones who had revamped the stadium.

Coventry recently toured some of the sporting facilities, including Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex and Magamba Hockey Stadium, which were built ahead of the 1995 All-Africa Games, to see their current state.

The minister was shocked by the state of Magamba where some of the offices, which are housed there, have been abandoned and were not even being cleaned.

There is need for new turf for the pitch at the facility.

Last week, while addressing the media on the major sporting events the country is hosting this month, Coventry came out in full support of the FOG campaign and encouraged those behind the initiative to “keep up the good work”.

She also praised The Herald photographer, Lynn Munjanja, who captured some of the shocking images of the collapsing stands and general poor state of Dzivarasekwa Stadium.

“Keep up the good work, that makes my job easier, so please continue with the campaign across all of our sporting facilities,” said Coventry.

Most of the country’s stadiums have been run down by authorities who turned their back on the facilities with the Harare City Council officials, in particular, being blamed for watching from a distance while Gwanzura and Rufaro — which used to host major football matches — have been reduced into poor shells.

The Confederation of African Football have already barred Rufaro from hosting international matches because of the poor state of the iconic stadium.

The Premier Soccer League barred their clubs from using Gwanzura five years ago because of fears that raw sewage, which was now spilling onto the turf, could pose a danger to the health of the players, referees and the technical staff.

The National Sports Stadium has also been barred by CAF from hosting international matches and, as of now, only Barbourfields in Bulawayo is eligible to stage such games.

The stadium in Bulawayo was provisionally cleared by the CAF Grounds Committee to host international matches but the country’s national teams, including the Warriors, could be forced to host opponents outside Zimbabwe in the event the matches are scheduled for evening kick-off since the lighting system at Barbourfields is sub-standard.

It also emerged last week that a diesel generator at Barbourfields hasn’t been connected to the stadium’s power supply for years now because the contractors abandoned the project over non-payment of their dues.

‘‘The generator is part of the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games legacy, which some contractors that did work, or offered services back then, still have not been paid up to this day,’’ a Bulawayo City Council engineer, who chose not to be named, told our sister newspaper, B-Metro, last week.

‘‘The company that was contracted to connect the generator abandoned work because of non-payment so the generator remains unutilised until a decision is taken on the way forward.’’

The National Sports Stadium, Rufaro and Mandava were all condemned as they failed to meet the minimum requirements.