Speed Up Stadium Renovations to Boost Warriors’ Afcon Hopes, Urges Former Captain

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Karuru urges government to expedite National Sports Stadium renovations.
Home games abroad hurt Warriors’ Afcon qualification chances.
Renovations scheduled to start in October, not soon enough.
Zimbabwe lacks Caf-certified stadium since 2019.
Warriors also need a permanent head coach.

Critical Need for Timely Stadium Renovations

Former Warriors captain Ovidy Karuru has called on the Zimbabwean government to accelerate the renovation efforts at the National Sports Stadium. He emphasized that enhancing the team’s chances of qualifying for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Morocco hinges on having a proper home ground.

Zimbabwe finds itself in Group J for the Afcon qualifiers, alongside Cameroon, Namibia, and Kenya. The top two nations from this group will secure their spots in the finals after home and away matches. All qualifiers are scheduled between September and November, raising concerns that Zimbabwe may once again have to host their home matches abroad due to the ongoing stadium issues.

The Home Advantage

Karuru, a key player in Zimbabwe’s qualification for two previous Afcon finals, underscored the significant disadvantage of playing home games on foreign soil. “Home advantage plays a very big role when playing international games,” Karuru stated. “The feeling of being at home is priceless. We can say we feel at home playing in South Africa, but it’s not the same as playing in Harare or any other city in Zimbabwe.”

The former captain highlighted that the support and love from local fans are crucial for the team’s morale and performance. “The boys want support and to be loved. They need to know that they have all the support from the authorities,” he added, urging the government to expedite the renovation process.

Government’s Renovation Timeline

The government announced in May that renovation work at the National Sports Stadium would commence in October. However, this timeline does not align with the urgent needs of the national team, which could be forced to play its critical Afcon qualifiers away from home. Since 2019, Zimbabwe has lacked a Caf-certified stadium to host international matches, forcing the team to play in Kigali and Johannesburg for their World Cup qualifiers, with limited success.

The Impact of Playing Away

Playing home matches away from home has historically been a disadvantage for the Warriors. The team managed to collect only one point in their World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria and Lesotho, games that were hosted in Kigali and Johannesburg respectively.

Group J and Qualification Prospects

Returning to the Afcon draw after missing the last edition due to a Fifa ban, Zimbabwe was seeded in Pot 4. This seeding placed them in a challenging group, but Karuru remains optimistic. “There is a big chance of qualifying because if you look at it, there are no more big teams that players should be scared of like before,” he noted. He stressed the importance of focusing on winning all home games and securing positive results away, even against formidable opponents like Cameroon.

Coaching Concerns

Compounding the stadium issue is the lack of a permanent head coach. Interim coach Jairosi Tapera’s contract ended following the team’s early exit from the Cosafa Cup. This leaves the Warriors without a leader as they prepare for their crucial Afcon qualifiers.

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