Afcon 2027 prime opportunity to build quality stadiums once and for all

Ababu Namwamba

The East African pamoja bid delegation led by Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba (centre) in Cairo, Egypt on September 27, 2023 before the bid winners were announced.

Photo credit: Pool |

What you need to know:

  • Cameroonians had a field day throwing all manner of jibes at the thousands of Kenyans who were following the match live on Facebook given Tuesday was a working day.

As Kenya faced off with Cameroon on Tuesday in the return leg of their first round 2024 Women Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) qualifier at Nyayo National Stadium, an online war was simmering between fans of the two nations on Facebook where the game was being streamed live on Harambee Starlets official page.

Cameroonians had a field day throwing all manner of jibes at the thousands of Kenyans who were following the match live on Facebook given Tuesday was a working day.

The Indomitable Lionesses online fans decried the poor livestream from Nyayo Stadium that had too many lags saying Kenya’s internet providers should visit Cameroon to see what fast internet looks like. One fan took a swipe at the poorly maintained surface at Nyayo saying even their local inter-estate matches are played at better fields.

The clincher was a comment by one Favor Davine Cristelle in response to a Kenyan netizen Derrick Mzing who had said that Cameroonian players must be proud to be visiting a developed country (read Kenya).

Wrote Cristelle: “African Volleyball Championship you came and played in our country and luckily you won. I will always ask please tell me when will Kenya host a competition? Remember last Afcon was in Cameroon and it was a success. How can you be this funny? Development begins with infrastructure, look at this field!”

I was privileged to cover the African Nations Championship in Yaounde last month where Kenya’s Malkia Strikers reclaimed their title for a record-extending 10th triumph.

While Cameroon’s internet is nowhere near Kenya’s 5G service, they beat us hands down when it comes to sports facilities. That is why Cristelle’s comment hurt me to the core because she was speaking the truth.

For a long time now, government has always found a way of evading this sticky issue of quality sports facilities. From the days of Maina Kamanda, Najib Balala, Hellen Sambili, Paul Otuoma, Ochilo Ayacko to Rashid Echesa, Amina Mohamed and now Ababu Namwamba who is in his second stint, every sports minister has dodged this issue.

The result is that Kenya continues to lag behind in sports simply because our talented players don’t have adequate facilities to train in and we can’t host international competitions.

However, I am overly optimistic that the Cristelles of this world will no longer mock Kenya after the Confederation of African Football (Caf) on Wednesday awarded East African countries Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda the hosting rights for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations.

It’s the breath of fresh air that Kenyan sport truly deserves after waiting in vain for a decade for Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee government to deliver five world class stadiums.

Our two best sports stadiums, Nyayo National Stadium and Moi International Sports Centre, were constructed during President Daniel Moi’s reign and it’s now more than 30 years before a stadium that can host international competitions has been set up.

Namwamba set the ball rolling last week when he tasked the Kenya Defence Forces with rehabilitating Nyayo, Kasarani and Kipchoge Keino Stadium as well as building the brand new Talanta Stadium. It’s widely expected that the first three will be among the venues for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations.

President William Ruto has time and again assured of government’s commitment to this initiative and it’s my prayer that this will be the paradigm shift that Kenyan sports has been craving.

As we embark on the renovation of the football arenas, it’s my hope that Namwamba will consider an uplift of other facilities to increase Kenya’s chances of hosting international competitions of other sports disciplines in future. The indoor arenas at Nyayo and Kasarani are screaming for a facelift and so are the tartan tracks at Kip Keino and Nyayo.

On Monday, World Athletics failed to include Nairobi as one of the venues for next season’s Wanda Diamond League partly because our stadiums are not yet at the required standards. The truth is that until we improve our stadiums to world class standards is when international federations will consider us as serious potential hosts.

The successful East Africa Pamoja bid has presented a golden opportunity to President Ruto and Namwamba to ink their names permanently in the history of Kenyan sport. If they deliver on this promise, I dare say, Kenya sports industry, will never be the same again.

Over to you His Excellency, please silence the Cristelles of this world for good!