Fix mess in stadiums once and for all

Nyayo Stadium

Workers doing construction at Nyayo National Stadium in this picture taken on May 19, 2020.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • When the “renovated” venues were reopened, little else was changed or added.
  • When Kasarani stadium was reopened, it still couldn’t host any match of repute.

Everything hangs on them, but little changes. For many weeks and months over the last five years, stadium closures have dominated sports life.

This publication ran a series on the state of sports infrastructure for more than a year, which cast a timely spotlight on the various stadia across the counties, leading to the closure of many of them amid furious and frantic construction works.

The highly dramatised standoffs between contractors and the government due to lack of pay, unmet deadlines and use of substandard material notwithstanding, the venues were closed, and everyone – athletes, footballers, boxers – suffered.

Unsurprisingly, when the frenzy was over, we discovered we had solved almost none of our problems.

When the “renovated” venues were reopened, we found out that besides new paint, gawky seats, and new mirrors in the changing rooms, little else was changed or added.

And oh, the excuses! When Kasarani stadium was closed for months and reopened, it still couldn’t host any match of repute there because there were no floodlights, contractors said they had forgotten that “small” detail.

When Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos was renovated (that word again) and the running track began peeling off two weeks later, contractors said they had no choice but to work with the materials available.

Borrow stadium facilities

In an unusual turn of events, the old track proved better than the one newly laid.

So much for renovations, huh?

But the venue that continues to get the rawest deal of them all is City Stadium, primarily because no effort has ever been made to renovate it.

Tok Komwanda, the ancestral home of the Mighty K’Ogalo and the most convenient stadium for football fans based on its location, has been neglected and remains in ruin for more than a decade now.

These scenarios combined to see Kenya stripped of the chance to host the African Nations Championship.
And now, as we prepare to co-host the Africa Cup of Nations in two years’ time, the frantic efforts are back.

Kasarani and Nyayo are closed, and Harambee Stars have had to host their matches against Burundi and Cote d’Ivoire in Malawi.

What a shame for a country like Kenya to borrow stadium facilities from a country with a much lower GDP, but you don’t have to look far to understand why.

The chaps in Nyasaland know the value of sports and have their priorities right, simple.

National shame

I make no apology for holding the government and all sports administrators’ feet to the fire on this, no matter how uncomfortable it might make some.

Harambee Stars will miss the crucial home advantage in the twin matches on Friday and Tuesday, yet a qualification to the 2026 Fifa World Cup is at stake.

Who misadvised the government to close all the national stadiums? What is the government doing to ensure we don’t ever have a repeat of this national shame?

Bear in mind that even if renovations weren’t ongoing in the two stadiums, neither of them could have been okayed to host the World Cup qualifiers as they were both unapproved by CAF because, even after all those renovations in the last half a decade, they still do not meet international standards.

Anyway, I wish the home boys the very best today against Burundi.