Not so long ago, a local daily newspaper ran a series on the shameful state of our sports stadia.
The stories made for pitiful reading, exposing all venues in major towns and cities as derelict facilities. At the time, no one took notice. Football Kenya Limited (Football Kenya Federation’s predecessor), Sports Stadia Management Board (SSMB), respective municipal councils and the government of the day were all collectively guilty for the mess.
But what goes around surely comes around. From the events of the last few weeks, it seems we have finally come to a sad awakening; or perhaps not. With the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup returning to Kenya on the country’s Jubilee Independence anniversary, our inept football administrators have been running around like headless chicken all in the name of rehabilitating neglected facilities in Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru.
The whole exercise seems an afterthought, a stopgap measure ‘to take care of this Cecafa thing’ that has suddenly dropped on our laps from heaven. I pity FKF President. Poor Sam Nyamweya has been one busy man traversing the country in a belated inspection tour of about half a dozen venues earmarked for the championships.
Predictably, there has been one common thread in his torturous evaluation exercise – virtually all the stadiums outside Nairobi are unfit to host the regional tournament.
Mombasa and Kisumu, the second and third largest cities in Kenya after Nairobi, hold the dubious distinction of having stadiums that have been out of use for hell-knows how many years. That explained why, even during these times of ‘giniwasekao’ (we have taken this thing), Kisumu residents have for decades been starved of any meaningful football action.
It also explains why, even with crowd-pullers Bandari back in the top flight, the football-mad fans of Mombasa are always forced to cram a nondescript sports club every time upcountry teams are in town. Needless to say, the amiable coastal dwellers often end up being outnumbered by exuberant travelling fans if the fixtures involve either Gor Mahia or AFC Leopards, but that is beside the point.
The swift pace with which the respective county governments, Cecafa’s Local Organising Committee and FKF have swung into action in Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru would easily put to shame their Brazilian counterparts.
Brazil, for all its massive resources and infrastructure, had in excess of four years to prepare for the 2014 world Cup but with just seven months to kick off, are still struggling with last-minute preparations. This whole thing is a sham. In typical Kenyan style, football authorities, working in cohorts with county governments, have found it convenient to engage in a last-minute rush to beat the deadline.
It gets worse. That it has taken so long for the event to attract credible sponsors following the expiry of the Tusker deal says a lot about how the corporate world perceives football administration in this part of the world.
Must we always wait until the last minute to embark on such shambolic preparations whenever a low budget tournament such as the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup comes around? And we still expect to host the Africa Cup of Nations in the near future!