During their first election campaign in 2013, Jubilee candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto promised Kenyans that at the end of the first five-year term, they would have constructed five state-of-the-art stadia. It has been over six years since the two assumed power and yet the country does not have what it takes to host a continental tournament.
How many stadiums does the country need to host a continental tournament without interfering with the country’s flow of things? The last time Kenya hosted a regional tournament was in 2017 when we hosted The Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA). The tournament whose victors were Harambee Stars.
Judging from the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup performance, Kenya has a bigger chance of securing continental success If we host the competitions. Kenyan fans have proven to be a trusted 12th man in all the home matches. As it was evident in Harambee Stars’ home fixture against Ethiopia, Kenyans are always more than willing to support the national team during home fixtures.
The ball is in the government’s court to give Harambee Stars an opportunity to play a continental tourney at home. Currently, Kenya has three stadiums that can be arguably allowed to host high continental matches. Off late we have been playing all our International matches at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
Apart from the Kasarani stadium, only Bukhungu stadium in Kakamega and Kenyatta stadium in Machakos can presently host international matches. The Machakos stadium, however, cannot be guaranteed to host an international match after Harambee Stars complained that the field’s terrain is not fit to play on. The Nyayo stadium is still being renovated and hopefully, by next month, it will be available for matches.
In 2017, Kenya lost a big chance of hosting CHAN, a tournament that Kenya would have won or even performed well would it have been played in the country. Kenya lost the chance to host the tournament because of lack of enough stadiums. It has been two years since we lost the rights to host CHAN and it seems like we did not learn from that.
We only need four major stadiums to host a big continental tourney like CHAN or even AFCON. Equatorial Guinea hosted the AFCON in 2015 in only four stadiums. With the number of participants increased from 16 to 24, four stadiums cannot host the largest tournament in the continent. If Kenya can have at least six standard stadiums by the next AFCON, it can get a chance to host the tourney.
The predicament facing Kenyan football came to light recently when Gor Mahia nearly missed the chance of hosting Moroccan club RS Berkane at Kasarani as it was hosting a manufacturers conference. It took the intervention of Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed for the stadium to be made available following a social media uproar. Sports Kenya had accused Gor of failing to book the venue in good time.
Speaking to Business Today, Federation of Kenya Football boss Nick Mwendwa said the government has to build stadiums for the sake of Kenya’s chances of hosting tournaments.
“The role of the FKF is applying for tournaments but we cannot apply for a tournament if the government does not build stadiums. The government has to invest in stadiums for the future of the youth” Mwendwa told a Business Today reporter in an exclusive interview.
The Vihiga stadium is coming. Wazito FC are also planning to build a stadium soon. If this two stadiums will be standard, Kenya will have four stadiums that can host an international match adding onto Kasarani and Bukhungu stadia.
The stadiums in the country are not enough to develop the sport in the country. It is a high time that the government should work to fulfill its promise to Kenyans.
On Monday, Amina toured Kasarani Stadium to inspect construction of Stadion Hotel, which will service the facility. She said it was 90% complete.
However, the CS will need to look past Kasarani if Kenya is to become a truly sporting nation.
Since sports is a devolved function, county governments must also pull up their socks and ensure there are adequate facilities in the regions that can atleast host premier league if not regional games.
It is refreshing, however, that some counties are making progress. Some of the other stadiums that have been renovated include Kinoru stadium in Meru and Gusii stadium.
Mombasa County Governor Ali Hassan Joho had also last year revealed that the county had set aside Ksh 1.2 bilion to rebuild the over 50 -year old Mombasa Municipal Stadium within 11 months.
The county also refurbished the 3,000-sitter Bomu-mini Stadium, which now serves as home ground for National Super League side, Modern Coast Rangers.
In Nairobi, Governor Mike Sonko last week said the Dandora Stadium which is still under construction in Embakasi North, will be unveiled in the next two months. It will have an artificial turf, seats, a gym centre, modern stalls and floodlights.
The county also plans to construct four other sports facilities in Kihumbuini, Woodley, Jacaranda and Kariokor. This is in addition to City Stadium.
The five stadia will be renovated to meet the required FIFA and CAF standards at a total cost of Ksh 1 billion.
Kisumu’s Moi Stadium is also set to be renovated at a cost Ksh 100 million while Kericho Green Stadium has been under renovation after the county allocated Ksh 340 million in order to meet international standards. The county is eyeing, among others international athletics meets. The stadium is also the home ground of Zoo United, though at one time, it was banned by FKF.
In Eldoret, Kipchoge Stadium is under renovation while plans are underway to do the same to 64 Stadium.
Nakuru’s Afraha stadium is among those crying out for a major face-lift while in Trans Nzoia, the county government is planning to put up a 20,000-seater facility at a cost of Ksh 500 million.