HARARE – Zimbabwe’s decision to host its football World Cup qualifying match against Nigeria in Rwanda next month has sparked massive uproar in the Southern African country, with several commenters on social media labelling the move a humiliation.

But for the football lovers of Butare, a modest city of 75 000 inhabitants in Rwanda’s Southern Province, it would mean a real feast of international football for the locals there: three World Cup qualifiers inside five days in the same city, in the same stadium – a record of sorts!

Zimbabwe – without a single internationally approved stadium in the whole country – will open their 2026 World Cup quest away to Rwanda on 17 November in Group C of the African qualifiers. Zimbabwe will then host continental power Nigeria three days later, on the 20th. But because all their grounds at home are currently banned by world football governing body Fifa, the Zimbabweans filed a request with the Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa) to stay for the Super Eagles clash so as to avoid the logistic and physical strain of moving to a different country and having to play again in three days’ time.

But there is however the little matter of facilities in Rwanda itself, a smaller crisis compared to Zimbabwe’s though. Rwanda at the moment only has one venue that meets required Confederation of African Football (Caf) standards – the Huye Stadium in Butare – and this is the same ground that the Rwandese themselves will use for their back-to-back opening two qualifiers against Zimbabwe on 17 November and South Africa four days later.

The Amahoro and Kigali Pelé Stadium in the capital city Kigali haven’t been cleared to stage international games after they were also barred pending renovations.

SportsCast has established that while Rwanda has offered Zimbabwe a home at Huye for the Nigeria meeting, Caf still has to authorise the proposal after thorough consideration of all relevant circumstances, leaving the Zimbabwean FA waiting anxiously.

For now it may look like there could be no cause for concern to stage three internationals on the same turf, in five days, but there are some planning issues definitely required.

Take for instance that South Africa will be hosted by Rwanda on the 21st, which means Bafana Bafana have to train at the venue a day earlier, on the same day that Zimbabwe is scheduled to play Nigeria.

This could force the Zimbabwe versus Nigeria match to be played a day earlier, on 19 November, the only reasonable date on the time-frame of these early rounds of World Cup qualifiers. It also means that Zimbabwe would have to play two big games inside three days.

And of course it will require the buy-in of the Nigerian FA, who would have their own prior travel arrangements designed for their overseas-based stars to be back on time to their clubs from the international break.

Additionally, Caf will likely press on the mandatory availability of minimum four-star rated hotels in the city, more so now with the possibility of Butare hosting three visiting national teams at the same time.


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