insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI
coronavirus, or Covid-19, has done a lot of damage to sport the world over with football one of the hardest hit.
The Uefa Champions League and the Europa League have been put on hold, and so too has been Liverpool’s cruise to the English Premier League (EPL) title in which they were 25 points clear of Manchester City before the league was halted.
The race for the Spanish La Liga title was stopped when Barcelona were just two points above Real Madrid with 11 games left before the end of the season and Barca set to travel to third-placed Sevilla and Madrid also away to in-form fourth-placed Real Sociedad.
In Italy as well, the race for the championship was abandoned when Juventus and Lazio were separated by only one point with Juventus on 63 points and Lazio on 62 with 12 games remaining.
Halted too was Manchester United’s rich vein of form which saw them sweep past bitter rivals and neighbours Manchester City 2-0 in the EPL, and also hit five goals past both Club Brugge of Belgium and Lask Linz of Austria in their Europa League adventure.
Even the pundits and the betting syndicates have been thrown into hiding as the little that is on offer for them right now is nowhere close to the spin-offs of games involving Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in Germany and the one in Italy featuring Juventus and Napoli.
Zimbabwe has also not been left behind in feeling the effects of coronavirus despite the country having registered only one case at the time of going to print.
The government has decided to fall in line with the rest of the world, banning all sporting activities and gatherings of more than 100 people on top of other measures.
This puts in jeopardy Charles Manyuchi’s World Boxing Federation middleweight title defence against Uganda’s Muhammad Sebyala scheduled for April 4 at the Harare International Conference Centre.
That also coming after the cancellation of Zimbabwe’s biggest golf tournament — the Zimbabwe Open — which was called off after all events on the Sunshine Tour were postponed until review on April 20.
That is not all — camping too of the Zimbabwean soccer team — the Warriors — for the Africa Nations Championships — has also been suspended after the Chan Championships were also cancelled by the Confederation of African Football.
However, it is Caf’s postponement of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) fixtures scheduled for March which is the hush-hush talk of the Zimbabwean football family and more so, for the breathing space it has given to Zimbabwean football.
The most important benefit of which is giving Zimbabwe enough time to upgrade the condemned Barbourfields Stadium and National Sports Stadium in time for a mandatory review of the venues for one of them to host Zimbabwe’s game against Algeria.
This means during this period Zimbabwe will have to move with speed to finish the renovations on the two stadiums long before the new dates for the next matches are announced.
This will offer Zimbabwe the opportunity to present a strong case to Caf that — this time around — they have stadiums good enough to host the Algerian Desert Foxes in this land.
Completion of those renovations in time — and informing Caf — would be enough to force the continental football body to send another inspection team in time for the 3rd and 4th round of matches of Afcon 2021.
There is positive talk coming from Youth, Sport, Arts, and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry and her deputy Tino Machakaire that they would be able to complete the job in record time.
However, talk only is not enough, but what is required is evidence on the ground. Now is the time to work harder than never before even if this means implementing a 24-hour work shift system.
The government will not be hurt by paying for overtime work because after all the $37, 6 million earmarked for the upgrading of Barbourfields and the National Sports Stadium is taxpayers’ money.
These taxpayers are the same football followers who are eager to watch the Warriors and Algeria play right on their doorsteps.
Should the hosting dream fail, Zimbabwe has also been given another chance and enough time to find another suitable venue in a foreign land.
It is a fact that Orlando Stadium is now a no-go area and the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) should also look far beyond Dobsonville, but a venue closer to home even in Polokwane.
Or alternatively, Zifa should have another stadium on standby in Zambia, Botswana, Namibia or Malawi, to avoid Zimbabwe being fined or thrown out of the tournament completely for failing to provide a venue for its own national team.
The priority, however, should be to get our stadiums ready in time, and present a strong case for our hosting rights.
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