Shame of Kenya stadiums persist as CAF come calling

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By Ken Okaka

The Kenya National football team Harambee Stars played an international friendly match against South Sudan at the Moi International Sports Complex Kasarani stadium; the first of Kenya’s international matches at home in over two years.

The match was played at Kasarani following a temporary reprieve offered to Kenya after both Kasarani and Nyayo National Stadium, the country’s two main stadiums, failed to pass to the set standards by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to host international matches.

However, the shame of Kenya’s sorry state in sports infrastructure has continued to persist even as the country stares at the sad reality that the national team Harambee stars could be forced to play their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in foreign countries.

Just a week ago, CAF in a communiqué to member countries spelt out that stadiums set to host the World Cup qualifiers must pass the inspection set to be conducted in preparation for the 2026 World Cup African Qualifiers matchday one and two that will take place from 13 to 21 November 2023, and all matches must be played in stadiums approved by CAF.

According to the letter by CAF Technical Development Director Raul Chipenda, the participating member associations were requested to send to CAF the selection of the venue to host the matches by September 8, 2023.

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CAF noted that for stadiums not approved and are set to undergo homologation for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, a stadium pre-inspection should be conducted, and the report sent to CAF Professional Football department by September 8, 2023.

The required stadium pre-inspection was to be completed by the National Club Licensing Manager and the report to CAF Include CAF Checklist, high-resolution photos and videos of each area of the stadium. However, the Kenyan administration chose to overlook this requirement and leased Nyayo Stadium for a church event during the inspection tour.

Mega tents were raised for the religious event at the stadium which lasted for more than a week casting doubt as to whether the stadium will pass the CAF inspection.

For Kenya’s stadiums to be approved Sports Kenya must work with Football Kenya Federation to bring the stadiums to the required specifications, however, with the stadiums being used for other activities, this will remain a pipe dream.

CAF temporarily allowed Kenya to host international matches as long as Kenya improves its facilities.

When the inspection was conducted, the tent was at the center of the stadium and no improvements have been done at the stadium. With the temporary reprieve granted, Kenya will again go back to the sorry state of no stadiums.

When Kakamega Homeboyz played their CAF Confederations cup fixture, it took the intervention of FKF to raise the matter with Sports Kenya and the church that had booked the stadium to allow Homeboys play their match at the stadium.

Elsewhere around the country, the story is the same with no sports stadia able to host a mere FKF premier League match, let alone a match of international stature.

Kinoru Stadium in Meru has been neglected and the playing turf is not playable, construction works at the Kip Keino Stadium in Eldoret have long stalled and all other stadiums in Kenya are simply not fit to host football matches, this even as Kenya looks the other way instead of working on the stadiums.

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Failure to complete the stadium pre-inspection or in case the quality of the report is not satisfactory, CAF will automatically rule out the stadiums from hosting the FIFA World Cup African Qualifiers and based on the stadium pre-inspection report, a decision will be taken by CAF regarding the approval of the stadium.

The CAF decision will be made based on the status of the stadium and level of compliance reported at the time of the inspection, while noting that CAF will not grant an additional period for works to be concluded in the stadiums. This leaves Kenya with no chance to host its matches at home as the government continues to fold its arms with no real intentions of upgrading its stadiums to CAF level.

With the conclusion of the FIFA International break, the FKF Premier League resumes in the coming weekend. However, Nyayo stadium will not be ready to host the premier league action.

AFC Leopards, which was scheduled to host Muhoroni Youth FC at Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday, has been forced to move their match from Nyayo to Kasarani a, day before Gor Mahia play in the same stadium against Nairobi City Stars on Sunday.

FKF roped in Azam TV as the FKF PL broadcast partner in a USD 1million but the bane of football stadiums looks far from over even as the federation strives to develop the local league structure.

Regionally, only Benjamin Mkapa stadium in Tanzania and Huye stadium in Rwanda are approved to host FIFA matches meaning that even as Sports Kenya continues to lease out Nyayo for other activities like church crusades, the national team will be heading outside the country to play their home matches.
Kenya must rise up and shake off this shame of stadiums as the country’s teams continue to work hard and compete among the best in the region.

The Kenyan government used over Ksh 635 million in the refurbishment of Nyayo stadium, sadly the stadium still has no working floodlights system and only the changing rooms were properly done. Kinoru on the other hand gobbled up over 600 million for constructions works but the stadium has been left to look like a cattle grazing field, yet Kenya hopes to have CAF approvals.

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