What you need to know:
- Kenya’s joint bid with Uganda and Tanzania is competing with those of Algeria, Botswana and Egypt
- The CS also announced the comprehensive refurbishment of Nyayo National Stadium, the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in Nairobi, and the Kip Keino Stadium in Eldoret that will give these historic facilities an entirely new look
- The confederation awarded Kenya the rights to host the 1996 Afcon and the 2018 African Nations Championships (Chan), only to strip the country of the privileges for lack of adequate preparations in both cases
Today, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Executive Committee sitting in Cairo will decide who will host the 2025 and 2027 editions of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament.
Of interest to Kenyans is the 2027 Afcon tournament. For the second time in history, we are in the running to host the continental football bonanza. Kenya’s joint bid with Uganda and Tanzania is competing with those of Botswana, Egypt and Senegal.
This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in Him as we await the anticipated good news. Kenya is after all a praying nation, and this is no better illustrated than by the intercessory prayer sessions at State House.
I have been accused in certain quarters of being overly critical in some of the articles I pen, digging for fault particularly when it comes to our football. So today, guided by divine providence, I sincerely want to be patriotically hopeful and positive.
Looking at the plans we have put in place, Kenya, together with Uganda and Tanzania will be an excellent choice for the 2027 Afcon.
The hardworking Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba just last week announced the schedule for the construction of a brand new, ultra-modern stadium in Nairobi that will hold 50,000.
The CS also announced the comprehensive refurbishment of Nyayo National Stadium, the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in Nairobi, and the Kip Keino Stadium in Eldoret that will give these historic facilities an entirely new look. Importantly, the venues will very much conform to Fifa’s internationally accepted standards.
The timelines is what got me excited, considering the many previous empty promises by the government of, I don’t know, five brand new stadiums; historic Kamariny Stadium; Wote Stadium etc being constructed but with nothing to show for on the ground.
This time the Sports CS unequivocally said the projects would be carried out under the supervision of the Kenya Defence Forces, and be completed in two years.
Four virtually new venues, coupled with our relatively good infrastructure vis-a-vis the rest of Africa, excellent hotels, an airport that is a bustling regional hub, means Kenya has what it takes to host a 24-nation Afcon. In addition, our beloved President William Ruto recently announced the signing of a deal in America to import electric buses that will revolutionise our city public transport system. What a time to be in Kenya! Our suitability cannot get any better.
But it does. Caf has never given this region the honours of hosting Africa’s greatest football show. North, West, Central and South Africa have all enjoyed the privilege but not East Africa. Fairness dictates that Caf bring the finals to this part of Africa. The gods, who are just, should be in our favour. Right?
But I venture to say when Caf announce their choice later today, Kenya will sadly miss out.
And this is why. It is all about the politics at Caf. For starters, Kenya has never atoned for leaving Caf with egg on its face, twice. The confederation awarded Kenya the rights to host the 1996 Afcon and the 2018 African Nations Championships (Chan), only to strip the country of the privileges for lack of adequate preparations in both cases.
The current FKF leadership has very little say at the continental level, they don’t hold sway and would be hard pressed to wipe away the slights Kenya has committed against Caf. The continental body dares not make the same mistake for the third time.
However, the major reason Kenya’s bid will fall by the wayside is the high stakes rivalry politics in North Africa.
Guinea were stripped of the rights to host the 2025 African finals over lack of preparedness. Initially, African football powerhouses Algeria and Morocco expressed interest in staging the 2025 Afcon posing a political dilemma to Caf. You can imagine the diplomatic pressure from the two nations trying to outdo each other on the sports arena, the national pride and the concomitant political capital gained from winning the hosting rights at the expense of the other.
A compromise was seemingly reached with Morocco’s bid being submitted for the 2025 Afcon. You can read the intentions. Morocco has overtly supported Caf, stepping in to host continental tournaments other Africa countries have shied away from like the 2022 Women’s Cup of Nations. A grateful Caf must surely reward them with the 2025 tournament.
Algeria’s bid for 2027 would have been the best , considering they even built an impressive new stadium in Algiers for this year’s Chan that they hosted, but they surprisingly withdrew on Tuesday. That leaves Egypt, stand-in hosts of the 2019 Afcon after Cameroon were found not to be ready, Senegal and Kenya with others.
Word has it that it is a done deal. Screenshot this article and flay me with it if the decision goes to Kenya.
Our silver lining is, as the Sports CS has pledged, the stadiums will be built regardless of the bid outcome.
Meaning, Kenya will in two years’ time be sure of four world-class stadiums (I fervently pray). And, voila!, we can bid again, for the 2029 event or the one after, confident in the knowledge that this time we really are ready to welcome Africa’s top football “nyumbani” - home.