THE speed at which renovations are taking place at Rufaro Stadium has pleased the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League who have high hopes of having the facility stage topflight league matches in the next few weeks.
Local league action makes a return on Saturday, a week after the season’s opener, the Castle Challenge Cup that was played between FC Platinum and Bulawayo Chiefs at Mandava Stadium.
Rufaro Stadium is still being revamped after it was deemed unfit for both local and international matches.
“We have Rufaro Stadium that is under refurbishment and we are happy to say a lot of work has been put there. We hope that as we continue playing, the stadium will pass the inspection. Hopefully sometime in April we will have Rufaro Stadium ready. The target was March. However, we are pleased to note that everything is taking shape,” said PSL chief executive officer Kennedy Ndebele.
Last year, at a 2021/2022 season Soccer Stars banquet in Harare, PSL chairman Farai Jere pleaded for Rufaro Stadium and Gwanzura Stadium to be brought back to life.
Jere’s touching appeal came weeks after news that Dynamos’ hopes of returning to their Mbare traditional stadium, Rufaro, had been dented.
The club’s principal sponsor Sakunda Holdings through a statement dated 7 November 2022 announced it had withdrawn from the sporting facility’s renovation project, a deal which they had initially agreed with the Harare City Council (HCC).
In March 2022, Sakunda and the HCC entered into an agreement which proposed that the former would be granted a long lease for the refurbishment of the dilapidated stadium to meet the required Fifa standards.
However, the fuel company, in a statement signed by the company’s Chief Operating Officer Charles Chitambo pulled out of the deal due to alleged “professional incompetence”.
In February last year, Presidential Envoy and Ambassador at Large Prophet Uebert Angel devoted himself to renovating the neglected Gwanzura Stadium. These renovations were expected to come at a time when there has been an outcry from the football fraternity over the state of football stadia that are dotted across the country.
The worrying situation culminated in Confederation of African Football (Caf) banning venues that include the National Sports, Rufaro and Barbourfields stadiums deeming them as sub-standard and unfit to stage any international matches.
The Government, through its arm the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), has been heavily blamed for the state of the facilities. However, Harare Mayor, Jacob Mafume, was recently on record saying Rufaro would be ready for the first edition of the Harare Derby this season.
Dynamos and CAPS United, the capital’s two biggest football clubs, are set to play in Week Seven of the Castle Premier League campaign.
“We are working around the clock to ensure that the ground will be ready to host matches this season. We know at the moment that the league will be kicking off soon, might not be feasible for it to be ready to host games, but what we are now working on is to ensure that the ground will be ready to host the Harare Derby between Dynamos and CAPS United.
“We have already done the samples of the bucket seats and we have already started the procurement processes and by the time we open it for games at least, three stands will have the bucket seats.”
He added: “The turf will be ready very soon, three quarters of the pitch has been levelled and the irrigation equipment has already been bought and has been installed. So, once we do the massive watering on the pitch, we are positive that the Harare Derby will be played at Rufaro.”
DeMbare have always called Rufaro Stadium home and believe they will attract more fans if they use the facility instead of the National Sports Stadium.
Local football pundits have since time immemorial agreed that Rufaro has an advantage in that it is more central, and easily accessible, compared to the National Sports Stadium.
Last season, the low attendance figures at domestic Premiership matches was a huge talking point and last week PSL’s head of secretariat stated that it was their intention to have more bums on the seats this season.