BY HENRY MHARA/DANIEL NHAKANISO
WARRIORS coach Zdravko “Loga” Logarusic is unfazed by the Confederation of African Football (Caf)’s decision to ban the country’s main stadiums from hosting international matches and has urged his charges to bring out their fighting spirit ahead of their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifier against Algeria later this month.
Logarusic faces the grim prospect of leading his side for the first time on neutral soil as Zifa are exploring the possibility of adopting Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, as their temporary home ground for the “home” match against the reigning African champions on March 29.
Commenting for the first time on the stadium fiasco, which has plunged the Warriors’ Afcon qualification campaign into turmoil, Logarusic urged his charges to keep their eyes on the ball and draw inspiration from the national team’s moniker and fight like Warriors.
The 53 year-old Croatian manager said although he would have preferred to make use of the advantage of playing in familiar surroundings in his first match in charge, his charges still need to get the job done whether playing at home or on neutral soil.
“We are playing the best team in Africa and let us show how good we are against the best,” Logarusic said.
“I’m just waiting for the game. “I want to see a spirit of Warriors, because that is the name of our team. We are Warriors.
He added: “Of course, it was going to be easier and nice to play in front of our fans but like I said, our nickname is Warriors, and sometimes Warriors can go to a war outside of their backyard. They will still be expected to win the war, and that is exactly how I want the team to do, no matter where we will play the match.”
Loga’s rallying call comes after a turbulent week for Zimbabwean football after the continental body highlighted that both the National Sports Stadium in Harare and Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo do not meet the standards to host high-profile matches.
Barbourfields, which had been earmarked to host the Algeria game, was condemned after local authorities had until last week failed to make improvements recommended by Caf following stadium inspections last November.
The National Sports Stadium had already been banned last year, with a damning report produced by the continental governing body’s inspection team in December last year concluding that the facility was unfit to be used by professional footballers.
Zifa president Felton Kamambo, meanwhile, revealed on Friday evening that the local football motherbody has appealed Caf’s decision to bar Babourfields from hosting the match against Algeria.
“We are communicating with Caf and we are hopeful that our appeal will be heard and be successful so that we can host Algeria in Bulawayo at Barbourfields,” he said.
Kamambo also revealed that local stakeholders had given a commitment for the refurbishment of Barbourfields and the National Sports Stadium by March 20 when Caf inspectors could possibly return for further inspection.
“The stakeholders have committed to repair the two stadiums to meet the required standards, ie, the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields Stadium,” he said. They have told us that they would have finished by the 20th of March of which they would have done almost everything needed except the bucket seats. “So we are appealing to Caf so that they can approve our stadiums to host the Algeria match.”
The National Sports Stadium, which has suffered years of neglect, is managed by the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing ministry, while Barbourfields is owned by Bulawayo City Council.