by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – ZIMBABWEAN goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini has urged football authorities in his country to involve former players in the administration of the game and emulate neighbouring South Africa in stadium maintenance so as to save the country the embarrassment of its venues not complying with international standards.
The South African-based veteran (35), who has played in both countries, said Zimbabwe had ex-professionals that plied their trade in world-class stadia and pitches in South African and across the globe, hence were knowledgeable with the type of facilities that best suited the players and made them fulfill their potential.
Kapini, a plain-spoken figure, was speaking to CAJ News in the aftermath of his country reeling from the humiliation of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) banning its stadia from hosting international matches.
The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) is racing against time to convince the continental mother body to lift the ban in time for the resumption of matches after the coronavirus lockdowns.
“A majority of Zimbabwe’s soccer legends played in top European leagues. As such they know better how facilities like soccer stadia should be sustained,” said Kapini, who has 14 years’ experience in the South African Premiership.
He recalled discussing with another legend, Desmond Maringwa, regarding the moval of poorly-maintained artificial turf at the iconic Rufaro Stadium, which had become a ticking time bomb for the career of players.
“Many players would enter Rufaro 100-percent fit but whenever the match ends they would have sustained injuries due to the problematic pitch surface. This is where ZIFA or the government ought to consult legends on what type of pitches suited professional players to avoid unnecessary injuries,” Kapini said.
Besides Rufaro, other major stadia like the National Sports Stadium, the biggest local facility with a 60 000-capacity, and Barbourfields (40,000 seater), are dilapidated, with the latter two incurring the wrath of CAF.
In addition to the rundown playing surfaces, CAF inspectors raised the flag on the derelict facilities such as dressing rooms as well as work spaces for media.
The Highlands Park goalminder noted most of the facilities in Zimbabwe, like South Africa, were either owned or managed by both municipalities and government.
However, in South Africa, the setup was more professional and consultations were wide regarding the maintenance of the football venues.
“In South Africa, all stadiums are perfect, and up-to-standard,” Kapini said of the facilities in the 2010 FIFA World Cup host country.
“The groundsmen always water the pitch before kick-off. Sometimes they can also briefly water it during half time,” the former Silver Stars and AmaZulu player said.
“Groundsmen consult club officials on the direction to take to ensure the players’ safety is guaranteed. Dressing rooms are always professionally maintained, so, why not work with former legends to ensure the development of football?”
Kapini, who travelled throughout Africa with Highlanders in his homeland and the national team, noted the same professionalism prevailed across the continent.
“You get impressed by authorities in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. They take great care of facilities.”
Kapini also argued some stadia in Zimbabwe were hosting too many matches. For example, no less than seven teams share two stadia in the capital Harare.
“How would you expect the local turf to be the best in such conditions?” Kapini asked.
Among the overused stadia is the National Sports Stadium, whose use for ordinary matches the goalkeeper says diminishes its prestige.
“The National Sports Stadium must be reserved for national teams and other international matches,” he proposed.
He cited South Africa’s FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, which is mostly used for the high-profile Soweto Derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
“I do not think it is a good idea to have ordinary premiership matches played at National Sports Stadium,” the experienced player said.
He nonetheless welcomed the appointment of the most successful female athlete in the Olympics, swimmer Kirsty Coventry, as sports minister in Zimbabwe.
“What gives hope is that our current sports minister was the best international athlete in her field. She knows the best facilities enable athletes achieve best results,” Kapini concluded.
– CAJ News