Those blessed enough to have lived in Zimbabwe before independence in 1980 refer to Rufaro Stadium fondly, as the ‘home of football.’
By Lawrence Mangenje
Located in Mbare; one of the country’s high-density suburbs in the capital, Harare, the 45 000-seater facility has historical connotations and many memories to those who follow local football.
It was at that venue where the late George ‘The Mastermind’ Shaya arguably the greatest ever player to come out of this land, inspired his beloved Dynamos to a 4-1 victory over Soweto giants Orlando Pirates, in the second leg of the Southern Africa Champion of Champions final in 1976.
It is also the same venue at which fans were served a thriller, when CAPS United and Black Rhinos produced a football master class in the 1987 Chibuku Cup final.
A star-studded Chauya Chipembere, featuring the legendary Stanford ‘Stix’ Mutizwa and Stanley Ndunduma, was just too good for a Friday Phiri-powered Makepekepe, with the army side coming out 2-1 victors.
I was in primary school and glued to ZBC TV when a baby-faced Samson Choruwa danced past the Highlanders defence to put Dynamos ahead, in the 2002 Dairyboard Charity Shield final, at Rufaro as well.
Sadly, the once-glamorous stadium is now a pale shadow of what it used to be.
The Harare City Council has for years, failed to wipe the tears of football fans in Zimbabwe, who have been crying out loud for a facelift of the iconic venue, which is unable to host games currently.
Due to Rufaro’s inability to host matches, Harare sides CAPS and Dynamos had to renew their rivalry out of the capital on Sunday, when they played out a 1-1 stalemate at the Baobab Stadium in the Chibuku Super Cup.
In fact, the City Fathers shot down a proposal by an investor to modernize the facility in exchange for naming rights, in 2019.
Regrettably, Rufaro is not the only stadium which is a pale shadow of its former self.
The script of the Mbare venue reads like that of Gwanzura in Highfield.
The 15 000-seater was once the home ground of CAPS and at some point, the Green Machine hosted arch-rivals Dynamos in a derby there.
Currently, the stadium is unable to host games due to its dilapidating state and the City Fathers are in the process of trying to renovate it.
Thomas Mapfumo’s Sporting Lions used to play its matches at a once squeaky-clean Dzivarasekwa Stadium but the facility does not even have grass on the pitch anymore.
The stadiums crisis in the country has been aggravated by the decision made by CAF, to ban the National Sports Stadium from hosting international matches.
“The Confederation of African Football has granted Zimbabwe’s National Sports Stadium a one-match approval to host senior teams’ international matches. Thereafter, the stadium will be automatically barred from hosting senior teams’ international matches and other CAF Men’s Inter Club Competitions until outstanding issues noted in previous inspection reports have been addressed,” read the statement by Xolisani Gwesela, ZIFA’s communications manager.
“This follows the inspection the facility by CAF’s Tshegofatso Moiloa on 13 & 14 October. CAF indicated that the Warriors’ home World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia in November will be the last game that we will play at home.”
Interestingly, after the Warriors host Ethiopia, the country will have no stadium suitable to host international matches, a few months after Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry assured the nation that the problem was under control.
“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,” she wrote on microblogging site Twitter in February 2020.
For the loving- public, lamentations regarding stadiums in the country are far from over.