Sunday, February 5, 2023

Measured, weighed and found wanting

Botswana’s stadiums have all failed the Confederation of African Football (CAF) inspections. The stadia are now deemed ineligible to host any CAF nor FIFA sanctioned competitions as they do not meet minimum standards to host the games.

This follows a CAF inspection carried out late last year in November. CAF visited Botswana with a mission to inspect the stadia to see if they meet the set standards to host international matches.

At the time of inspection, both the Ministry of Sport and the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) were optimistic they will pass. Sunday Standard is however reliably informed that the report of 9th January 2023 is nothing both the Ministry of Sport and the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) had hoped for.

The country’s three best stadia, the National Stadium, Lobatse Stadium and Obed Itani Chilume stadium as well as the privately owned Royal Aria all failed inspections.

Botswana now joins its ally, Namibia to be the southern African countries that all their stadia are not meeting standards to host the CAF competitions. Namibia host their CAF competition in the neighbouring South Africa.

It is however not all doom and gloom for Botswana as the country now has up to March to ratify the shortcomings before the qualifiers start. Failure to correct the shortcomings will see the Zebras play their games in a foreign country. CAF AFCON qualifiers, Club championship and confederation cup are to be played in a compliant stadium.

“They have failed inspection but the things that have caused the failure are minor at Obed Itani stadium. We have to install a light so that the brightness meets the set standards,” BNSC chief executive officer Tuelo Serufho says.

He adds that they are also required to put fridges in offices of CAF officials on duty and also increase the number of chairs in conference rooms. “By February we will have ratified all at Obed Itani stadium because what is required is not maintenance of the structure that will cost huge money but things that can be bought.”

Obed Itani stadium lights brightness is below the set standard of 1.2 cd. It is also said the playing turf is spongy and not suitable for play.

The national stadium needs more work, dressing rooms are supposed to be under the grand stand and also the stands need refurbishment. There is also need for the evacuation alternative route.

Lobatse stadium which was inspected failed yet again and there has never been any effort to address the shortcomings by sport governing authorities. There is also need to address the issue of media Centre and the video Operational Centre (VOC).

Ahead of inspections last year, an upbeat Serufho was optimistic that the stadia will pass the inspection. At the time, the BNSC CEO said they were optimistic that ‘the National stadium and Obed Itani Chilume will pass the inspection and be used for continental competitions.’

Now it remains to be seen how the latest setback will affect Botswana and Namibia’s efforts to host Afcon 2027 finals. The two countries are making a joint bid to host the tournament.

Serufho meanwhile is hopeful that Obed Itani stadium will be available to host the national team, the Zebras, when Afcon qualifiers resume next month. “We will have corrected all in February because if we do not do that, the Zebras will play AFCON qualifiers outside the country.” National Stadium can be used for junior teams and women senior team during qualifiers but cannot host CAF finals.

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