Zimbabwe’s stadiums crisis: A national shame and a betrayal of football fans. It needs urgent fixing.


HARARE – It is a tragic, regrettable, and shameful reality that Zimbabwe, a proud and passionate football nation, will have to play its international games outside its borders—arguably one of the lowest points in Zimbabwean sports. This concrete and tortuous reality is the inevitable result of the grossly appalling state of the country’s sporting infrastructure, which has been neglected, ignored and left to its dereliction by the government for too long. 

Zimbabwe stadiums crisis: Warriors host Nigeria in Rwanda in Group C 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers match

The authorities seem to be oblivious of the pressing nature of this crisis—they have no sense of urgency or responsibility to address and fix this crisis, which has deprived loyal and enthusiastic Zimbabwe football fans of the opportunity to cheer for their team at home.

The waves of excitement that greeted Zimbabwe’s return to international football after a lengthy FIFA ban was lifted were later dampened by the news that the Warriors will play their home game for the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in Rwanda. Zimbabwe will host Nigeria in Rwanda in a Group C FIFA World Cup Qualifiers encounter.

This is because none of the stadiums in Zimbabwe meet the required standards set by the world football governing body, which condemned them as unfit for hosting international matches.

The National Sports Stadium (NSS) in Harare, the conventional fortress of the Warriors, was among the stadiums that failed to pass FIFA inspections, which highlighted a number areas that urgently needed improvement. These areas, however, have not been addressed to date, despite repeated promises and assurances from the government officials. 

The same story applies to other stadiums across the country, such as Rufaro Stadium in Harare and Sakubva Stadium in Mutare, which have been undergoing endless and sluggish renovations. 

And the government seems to be either clueless or incognizant to the plight of the country’s football fans, who have been robbed of their right to support their team in their own backyard.

This was evident when the Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Emily Jesaya claimed in the Senate last month that she was not aware of Zimbabwe hosting Nigeria in Rwanda. Such remarks and reactions are not surprising in Zimbabwe, where critical and pressing issues are often met with insufferable ignorance and denial. Bizarrely, such statements have become the norm, rather than the exception.

“As a Ministry of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture, we are glad the suspension or ban has been lifted and we are now able to compete at international level. With regard to hosting soccer matches as a country, we are unable to host soccer matches in this country.

“What I would like to inform the House is that the bureau has since lifted the ban and there is normalisation. We have not officially been informed with regards to hosting local matches as far as Rwanda, but if they inform us, we will come back to the Senate to inform you of that development,” said Jesaya.

Such is the nonchalant attitude brazenly showcased by those who have been specifically mandated to be the government’s voice in these issues. But the reality cannot be wished away easily like that. It may work, on their end, to evade pertinent questions in the short term.

Yet the concrete reality of Zimbabwe hosting its games internationally stubbornly lingers. Especially now that Zimbabwe is preparing for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers—a 27-man provisional squad has already been announced. Midfielder Marvelous Nakamba is set to be named Warriors captain. The games are here. And those that were to be played in Harare will be played in Rwanda. Such a cold welcome to our return on the international scene.

Any efforts from Kirsty Coventry to mitigate the crisis?

But what would it take to fix the country’s stadium crisis? 

Because this ruinous state-of-affairs has got so bad that on the local football scene, NSS had to be “rested” since several local teams shared it as their home ground (in July 2023, National Sports was suspended to host local Premier Soccer League matches after it had degenerated). 

Could a generous injection of funds from Treasury be the panacea to this dire predicament?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. After having promised some time back that she would facilitate and expedite the upgrade of National Sports and insta bucket seats, Kirsty Coventry, the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Culture, currently finds herself at crossroads. 

She has faced a barrage of criticism for not honouring her promises, and, this time around, she has made an ostensibly impassioned plea to Treasury so that it can loosen the strings of its purse and channel the necessary funds towards the tangible development of Zimbabwe’s sporting infrastructure.

In a report to legislators at the ongoing 2024 pre-budget seminar, Kirsty Coventry said the treasury should avail funds to towards infrastructure refurbishment.

“It is now time the nation should embark on or seriously consider significant investment in Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture for sustainable national development, pride, peace and security.

“The sectors will never be the same again once the sport, recreation, arts and culture are afforded the requisite resources which include, appropriate workspaces, finances (working capital, concessionary loans and grants), machinery, equipment, land and skills,” read Kirsty Coventry’s report.

Every year, the Treasury boss Mthuli Ncube allocates money to the Sports Ministry for infrastructure development; and such funding has been argued to be paltry.

And this is the point that should concern us—budget allocations towards the holistic development of sporting structures in Zimbabwe have been woefully inadequate.

Which makes this a matter of will: both local and central government (and here we are blind to their self-serving political blame games) are complicit in this act of treachery. 

There is a dearth of serious political, social, and economic will to address Zimbabwe’s decrepit sporting infrastructure. Without the will, there is no [whole-hearted] action. And it is tragic. One can only imagine the levels of excellence our sports could achieve if there was an oversupply of will and correct priorities.

And to this end, the parliamentary portfolio committee on Sports Arts and Culture recommended that attention be focused towards the National Sports Stadium and Magamba hockey field in its vicinity.

Coventry hinted towards a blueprint that could portend the positive transformation of the country’s sporting infrastructure.

“It is proposed that should resources permit, additional funding should be provided to these sectors either in the form of concessionary loans and or grants.

“In addition, funding for capital expenditure in respect of public sector investment programs (PSIP) and Ministry operations – for mobility including office furniture and equipment for district offices should be considered a priority for meaningful service delivery,” added Coventry.

Conclusion: Zimbabwe needs to urgently address its stadiums crisis

It is clear. And undeniable. The writing is on the wall: Zimbabwe needs to urgently address its stadiums crisis. And not only the stadiums issue. Zimbabwe needs to holistically turn around its sport, arts, and recreation sectors for the better to restore what have become hazy concepts to the citizenry: a sense of belonging, pride, development, peace, social cohesion. Et cetera.

The stadiums crisis is not only a disgrace to the country’s sports sector, but also a betrayal of the millions of football fans who love and follow the game with passion and pride. 

The government owes the people an altruistic apology and swift action to restore the dignity and glory of the country’s football. The fans deserve better than to watch their team play in foreign lands, while their own stadiums lie in ruins. The undesirable reality of playing home games on international soil cannot be allowed to prevail. 

Without turning didactic and banal, we can only conclude by saying that the government needs to start believing again in the efficiency of the public sector. The stadiums crisis can only be fixed by generous budget allocations from central government; and by serious action on ministerial and local authority levels.

We still need to dream and powerfully imagine that having world-class stadiums is a tangible reality that can be achieved if there is ample will – serious thought and concrete action. 

For now, we will cheer on the Warriors with unwavering devotion, notwithstanding geographical location, without forgetting the critical need to fix our stadiums. 

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