By Kenn Okaka
Kenya has put in a bid to jointly host the 2027 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) with neighbours Uganda and Tanzania.
President William Ruto officially President William Ruto in April unveiled a team to spearhead efforts to draft a compelling bid for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations hosting rights by Kenya and her East African neighbours which was then submitted to the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba was directed to head and mobilize a strong team of experts to ensure the countries secure the bid and stage a good competition.
The bid is dubbed AFCON 2027 EAC Pamoja Hosting Bid and every hosting country will be required to have at-least three CAF Standard stadiums and a further six training grounds each.
The president further added that the Government has a well set out strategy on how to develop comprehensive infrastructure, enhanced monetization and commercialization of talents and a harmonious working with international sports bodies.
However, Kenya’s bid remains a pipe dream if history is anything to go by. Kenya has no stadium that can host CAF matches, all thanks to former Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed who led the Ministry during the last regime of former President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenya boasts of only two stadiums, Kasarani and Nyayo stadium, both which are not upto CAF standards. Under the watch of former CS Amina, the Kenyan government sunk a whooping Ksh 650 million in the refurbishment of Nayayo National Stadium which took three years.
After the long three years of closure, Nyayo was opened in 2020, but way below the expected standards.Under Amina as the Cabinet Secretary for Sports in Kenya; Nyayo was just one of the stadiums, which galloped tax payers’ money for a work not competent enough to host any international tournament.
Nyayo Stadium was closed in 2017 for renovations to host the 2018 Africa Nations Championships (Chan), which was later moved to Morocco over unpreparedness.
The stadium was briefly opened to host a Kenyan Premier League match between Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards in August 2017 then closed again for renovation.
It was then partially reopened for Beyond Zero Half Marathon on March 8 and February 11 for former President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi’s state funeral.
Nyayo Stadium was closed to the local leagues and Kenyans promised a state of the art stadium. After its refurbishment, only seats are there to write home about. The perimeter around the pitch was replaced with a trench which can hardly deter fans from invading the pitch.
The plan, as previously stated, was to have a canopy around the stadium to shelter fans from adverse weather. This was not done and the CS Amina happily took President Uhuru Kenyatta around the stadium to re-open it, well aware that the works required to be accomplished for a CAF /FIFA standard stadium had not been met.
Across the country, the story is the same with unfinished sports facilities. Under the former CS, the Sports Ministry had to cancel the tender for construction of Kamariny Stadium in Iten while renovation of Kipchoge Keino (Eldoret), Kinoru Stadium (Meru), Mombasa County Stadium and many others have dragged on to date.
Away from Nyayo stadium, there was the other “International Stadium” that the government undertook to construct in Kiambu, the historic Kirigiti stadium. Another Sh 600 million was sunk into the construction of the stadium with yet another promise of an international stadium but to date, there is so little to show at the stadium, whose proximity to the Nairobi city would have added to the country’s good international standards stadiums.
Along Ngong road, another project was ongoing under the watch of Amina’s ministry. For another three years, construction works at the infamous Posta grounds ended with school like fields but nothing close to even a county stadium, let alone international standards.
Amina is perhaps the most incompetent Cabinet Secretary that Kenya will ever get and all Kenyan should condemn her performance with the strongest terms possible.
Kenya has twice won the rights to stage continental tournament finals, the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 and the African Nations Championships (CHAN) in 2018, but both times was stripped of hosting rights due to the lack of internationally-approved stadiums.
Regional rival Sudan staged the first edition of the tournament in 1957 and was hosts again in 1970 while Ethiopia were hosts in 1962, 1968 and 1976.
Understandably, the sports fraternity is frustrated at the half-hearted gestures given by the leadership of Amina in developing sports infrastructure even when the treasury allocated to the ministry millions of shillings for the projects.
Now, Kenya has to undertake a crush program to construct stadiums and make the 2027 bid a reality while teams representing Kenya at continental assignments like the CAF Champions league and the Confederations Cup have to look for alternative venues in neighbouring countries.
Reports indicate that both Kakamega Homeboys have settled for the Benjamin Mkapa stadium in Tanzania to host their CAF Confederations matches while Gor Mahia had chosen to go the same route in their CAF champions league campaign before they were disqualified by CAF, this as Kenya continues to grapple with the lack of stadia, a predicament that would have been long solved if former CS Amina Mohammed involved due diligence in executing her role as Cabinet Secretary.
Kenn Okaka is a Nairobi based communication strategist and football stakeholder