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Mnangagwa opens new stadium in Zimbabwe, praises Magaya’s initiative

HARARE — Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Sunday commissioned a new soccer stadium built by a prominent church leader, saying it was a sign of the country’s potential.

The Heart Stadium, located in the Waterfalls suburb of Harare, has a capacity of 5,000 seats, constructed in three months. It was built by Walter Magaya, the founder of the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries, who said he plans to expand it to 10,000 seats to meet the standards of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Mnangagwa praised Magaya for his initiative and said the stadium would boost the development of soccer in Zimbabwe, which has been struggling with poor infrastructure and governance issues.

“All of us here both at home and in the diaspora, have a role to play in building the Zimbabwe we all want. In this particular instance sports development must never be the responsibility of the central government,” Mnangagwa said.

“I further challenge more of our citizens, sports persons and private sector players to take up opportunities in the sector towards modern sporting facilities. It is particularly praiseworthy that the Heart Stadium was constructed in keeping with guidelines of the Confederation of African Football.”

He also urged the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) to ensure fair and transparent selection of players for the national team, amid allegations of corruption and favoritism.

“Our national team selection processes must be above reproach. Talent and hard work must be rewarded and the best players must be given the opportunity to represent our country,” he said.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by several government officials, including Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry, Tourism Minister Barbara Rwodzi, Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri, and Harare Mayor Lovejoy Chitengu.

Coventry commended Magaya for his innovative approach and said it complemented what the government was trying to do to improve sports facilities in the country.

Magaya said he was inspired by Mnangagwa’s vision and leadership and thanked him for creating an enabling environment for his project.

“Your Excellency, when the environment is created as you have done, we will perform. We are in the process of approaching different city councils, looking first at Chitungwiza, where we want to duplicate the same that is here at Chibuku and other venues. Provided with enough space, we want to put our landmark there,” Magaya said.

He said he hired professional contractors to build the stadium, but also involved thousands of his church members who helped with the manual labor.

He said the stadium was not only for his church, but for the whole nation of Zimbabwe, which deserved to have a world-class facility for its soccer teams.

“This stadium is a gift to Zimbabwe. We want to see our clubs and our national teams playing their home matches here, not in other countries. We want to see our fans cheering and celebrating in this stadium, not watching on TV. We want to see our flag flying high in this stadium, not in foreign lands,” Magaya said in an earlier interview.

He said he hoped the stadium would inspire other Zimbabweans to contribute to the development of the country in their own ways.

ZIFA certified stadium inspector Xolisani Gwesela, who is also the former acting COO of the association, said he had supervised the construction of the stadium from the beginning and vouched for its quality and compliance.

“I inspected this stadium from the time I was with ZIFA. We came here and assisted with pegging and siting. The stadium has ticked all the required areas. We can speak of buckets, electronic access, top standard doping room, high quality dressing rooms, high quality pitch, top quality goal posts. The drainage system is well done. In Zimbabwe, there is no stadium with such a high level suspended pitch drainage,” Gwesela said.

He said he was confident that the stadium would soon be able to meet the CAF standards as there were only a few outstanding issues to be addressed.

“My view, with my vast experience in stadium inspections, having worked as a CAF general coordinator and having played a key role in the introduction of club licensing in Zimbabwe, is that the stadium meets the requirements. This is a national project that we should all support in the country,” he said.

“We have a challenge with infrastructure. At one time we had no stadium in the country that met the Premier Soccer League standards, but we still had to play football. It is my plea that all football stakeholders help preserve this stadium for future generations,” Gwesela added.