BY HENRY MHARA
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry has sparked outrage from social media users following her “reckless social media statement” where she described as “nonsense” some locals’ opinions around the country’s banned stadiums.
There has been an outpour of anger from soccer-loving Zimbabweans following the Confederation of Football (Caf)’s decision on Tuesday to bar the country from hosting high-profile matches because all the three international venues in the country failed to meet the required standards.
Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo and Zvishavane’s Mandava Stadium were condemned after failing to make improvements recommended by Caf following stadium inspections last November.
The National Sports Stadium has also been trashed, with the damning report produced by the continental governing body’s inspection team concluding that the facility in its current state was unfit to be used by professional footballers.
This has forced Zifa to look for alternative venues outside the country’s borders for all national football teams assignments, starting with the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Group H qualifier against Algeria at the end of March.
Reports suggest that this match will be played at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Enraged by the decision, Zimbabweans, most of them who cannot afford to travel to South Africa for the match, tore into the government for its failure to ensure that the National Sports Stadium, in particular, is spruced up to meet international standards.
Barbourfields and Mandava are owned by the respective councils.
They have both been criticised for neglecting their facilities also.
“We all know that the stadiums in Zimbabwe have been deteriorating for ages, but it is now my responsibility to make sure we fix this mess. Overnight solutions will not work, but know that I am on it. I will keep you posted, so don’t listen to other nonsense out there,” Coventry said on her official Twitter handle on Thursday.
While she was appreciated by a section of her followers for accepting responsibility, many took exception to her choice of the word “nonsense,” in the statement. The post had attracted over 1 200 comments as of yesterday.
“The choice of the word nonsense is what worries me. Wasn’t there any other way of expressing yourself minister?” queried Tendayi Shomwe.
Another Twitter user using the handle @DrMaisiri said: “You let them (stadiums) deteriorate and had to wait for the nation to face humiliation before acting? We are not fools. Honourable, your incompetence is damaging our reputation and our nations sporting facilities. When citizens criticise you it is not nonsense, but taxpayers demanding answers.”
@mmawere, believed to be businessman Mutumwa Mawere, warned Coventry, saying: “Please be modest. Problems that are older than you and me will take more than slogans and an individual to fix.
Look beyond your circle of control and influence to know better that wishing problems away is futile and fatal. The centre is not holding and will not hold.”
Another user, @Charisi, said: “What you call nonsense is genuine concerns by soccer-loving public. I wouldn’t use such language golden girl,” while Shaka’s General wrote: “You are the one telling us nonsense Kirsty?”
Caf gave a long list of areas that need to be improved on for the three stadiums to meet the required standard.
Some of the requirements include setting up media facilities and bucket seats.