Popular soccer venue Rufaro Stadium’s artificial turf is to be removed at the end of the 2016 soccer season. City of Harare (CoH), which owns the 35,000-seater stadium, is planning to replace the artificial turf with natural turf.
The artificial turf was installed because of its easier maintenance and environmental friendliness. Carbon emissions from petrol driven lawn mowers would be curbed, fertilizers were not required and there would be no pollution from water run-off carrying with it chemical fertilizers.
In 2008, the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA), Premier Super League and players hailed the artificial turf as the best development for local soccer. But only eight years later, clubs and soccer players in the Premier Super League are blaming it for causing injuries.
CoH corporate communications manager, Michael Chideme concurs and told Harare News, “The turf is old and is causing many injuries to players.”
An American company Act Global Sports (AGS), through the FIFA Goal Project, was awarded the tender to renovate the stadium in 2008 and Harare City Council availed $107,000 for the restoration of the artificial turf in 2014. $55,000 of that amount was for specialized machines to remove the damaged parts of the turf while $52,000 was for the infill materials, and the supply and introduction of additional surface rubber granules.
Rufaro’s synthetic turf, called Extreme Turf, is supposed to be restored after every 3 years but that has not been the case at the city stadium and an AGS representative who visited Rufaro in 2014 pointed out a lack of proper maintenance of the surface.
Harare News contacted ZIFA, who had partnered with CoH to install the artificial turf, for comment, but ZIFA communications manager Xolisani Gwasela said he was not aware that the turf was now going to be removed.
“We have not received any communication from City of Harare about their intention to remove the artificial turf,” said Gwasela.
Harare Residents Trust (HRT) Director Precious Shumba pointed out that the closure of Rufaro Stadium for the replacement of the turf will affect supporters who favour Rufaro Stadium because of its proximity.
He also voiced concerns that residents have yet to receive a report from council budget meetings indicating what the money collected from gate-takings has been used for.
“Council should prioritise the issue of participation especially if they are using ratepayers’ funds,” he said.
Rufaro, which means “happiness”, was built in the 1960s. Besides sporting events, the local authority also hires the stadium out for other activities such as concerts, weddings, and parties. It is home to eight of the 16 professional football teams in the country.