Sports minister Kirsty Coventry with the Fifa director member Nations-Africa, Gelson Fernandes recently
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry is confident that the senior national team, the Warriors, will play their matches in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers at home following the lifting of the Fifa suspension this week.
The Warriors enter the Fifa World Cup 2026 African Qualifiers draw, which will be conducted this evening in Abidjan, Ivory coast.
Zimbabwe are in Pot 4 of the 54-team draw along with Mozambique, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Malawi and Libya.
There are six pots for the draw.
But following the lifting of the suspension, questions have been raised on where the Warriors will play since all the country’s stadia were banned from hosting international matches three years ago.
Responding to questions during a Press conference where Fifa confirmed the lifting of the suspension and the unveiling of the normalisation committee, Coventry expressed confidence that the Warriors would play matches at the National Sports Stadium (NSS).
“We have had good open conversations with Fifa. We will continue having conversations (about the National Sports Stadium). The guarantees of what has been happening which has not been made public will go to Fifa through the SRC [Sports and Recreation Commission] and we remain fully committed to doing that seeing and ensuring that we are playing our games at home,” she said.
“There has been on-going works. The electronic ticketing system is now in the country waiting to be installed. Water reticulation is in process and the feasibility study for the entire area, not just the NSS, but grounds around it are being undertaken at the moment. It should be wrapped up in the next two to three weeks.
“This has also been explained to Fifa when they visited and they also went and visited the National Sports Stadium of which they were under the impression that is crumbling to the ground, but they that it was not the case.
“The feasibility study is being undertaken by a South African legitimate company that built and renovated soccer stadiums for the 2010 World Cup. And in the next three weeks, we will have more of an update on for you on where that feasibility study will see us.”
Zimbabwe has four months to ensure that the NSS is up to international standards, with the World Cup qualifiers set to kick off in November.
The Warriors will be fancying their chances of making it for the first time to the World Cup, to be hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States.
The number of teams from Africa has been increased from five to nine, increasing Zimbabwe’s chances after the country last narrowly qualified for the global showcase in 1992.
A search for a technical team which will be tasked to take the team to the grand stage should begin once the normalisation committee led by former Dynamos chairperson Lincoln Mutasa settles.
Legal expert Nyasha Tashinga Sanyamandwe, former Mighty Warriors coach Rosemary Mugadza and ex-Highlanders defender Sikhumbuzo Ndebele make up the rest of the committee.
Teams will be drawn into nine groups of six teams and play home-and-away round robin matches from November 2023 to October 2025.
Nine group winners qualify for the World Cup, while the best four group runners-up enter play-offs.
World Cup Africa Draw
Morocco (6), Senegal (3), Tunisia (6), Algeria (4), Egypt (3), Nigeria (6), Cameroon (8), Mali, Ivory Coast (3)
Burkina Faso, Ghana (4), South Africa (3), Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo (1), Guinea, Zambia, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea
Uganda, Benin, Mauritania, Kenya, Congo Brazzaville, Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, Namibia, Angola (1)
Mozambique, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Togo (1), Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Malawi, Libya
Niger, Comoros, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Botswana, Liberia
Lesotho, South Sudan, Mauritius, Chad, Sao Tome e Principe, Djibouti, Seychelles, Eritrea, Somalia