FOR the first time, Hwange FC will not play home matches at the Colliery Stadium.
Founded in 1940, Hwange FC is not just a football team to the people of the coal mining town in Matabeleland North Province.
It’s a way of life, a culture, a team that is in the hearts of the local people.
The Colliery Stadium has not been homologated — football language for approval by the authorities as a venue for topflight football — meaning the team will have to travel to Bulawayo for their home matches.
Stanley Chirwa, a Hwange FC fan for the last four decades, still can’t come to terms with the idea of watching Chipangano in Bulawayo — over 350 kilometres from Hwange town — when he could have just walked from his home to the Colliery Stadium.
“I worked for Hwange Colliery for 30 years, made a life for myself and my family here so naturally supporting Hwange Football Club is second nature to me. I still can’t understand why the team has to go all the way to Bulawayo to play home matches instead of the Colliery Stadium. What is it that is now wrong with the Colliery Stadium that the team can’t play here in Hwange?” asked Chirwa.
According to the Zifa Grounds Committee, the Colliery Stadium’s dressing rooms, toilets, technical teams sitting areas must be fixed in order for the stadium to play host to Premier Soccer League matches.
Until all the above-mentioned issues are sorted out, Hwange FC will play all their home matches in Bulawayo starting with their first match of the 2023 season against Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium on Saturday.
Hwange FC is not alone in playing home matches away from home.
The Premier Soccer League has been forced to cram four matches at the National Sports Stadium (NSS) in three days as the eagerly-awaited 2023 soccer season kicks off this weekend.
There is a stadium crisis in the country.
The situation is worsened by the delay in the completion of renovations at Rufaro Stadium in the capital as well as Bata Stadium in Gweru, which is new boys Sheasham’s home ground.
Another PSL debutant, Simba Bhora are also trying to get Wadzanai Stadium in Shamva up to the required standards so that they can play their home matches there.
But in the meantime, they will play their home matches at the National Sports Stadium, while Sheasham will be FC Platinum’s tenants at Mandava.
On Saturday, Simba Bhora entertain league champions FC Platinum at the NSS which will also play host to Caps United and Manica Diamonds on Sunday.
Only six stadia, the NSS, Barbourfields, Luveve, Mandava, Baobab and Gibbo have been cleared by the First Instance Body (FIB) for the 18-team league, with Harare alone having six teams — Dynamos, Caps United, Herentals, Yadah, Cranborne Bullets and Black Rhinos — to use one stadium.
“Harare is a big headache. There is congestion there; one stadium with six clubs, but if you look at the fixtures it’s three teams; but, hopefully, Simba (Bhora) will find another venue. ZPC Kariba, there is indication that they are working on what was pointed out to be defects by the FIB,” said PSL chief executive officer Kennedy Ndebele.