Year in review: Lack of stadia hurting Coast’s sportsmen

@MahmoudLuqman The inception of devolution was meant to be an effort to bring government services closer to its citizens but that attempt has certainly failed in developing stadiums at county levels. All six county governments along the Kenyan coast are well into their second terms yet there remains nothing for the country’s sportsmen to be proud of thanks to the absence of an international stadium. Five years after the closure of Mombasa County stadium for renovations and following the 2013 CECAFA Championships held at the facility, no international match has been staged along the coastal line. More embarrassing is that during the five-year period, the only coastal representatives in the country top tier Bandari FC have qualified for the Confederations Cup twice; in 2016 and 2019 when they won the Shield Cup. It is the main reason which made Bandari FC, a team sponsored by Kenya Ports Authority to renovate its Mbaraki Sports Ground to international standards. Dickson Kibagendi who is the stadium manager stated that they embarked on the process of the works in order to have their own international stadium. “We have been going to Nairobi for international matches where you spend almost 4 million hosting the match and it has become a burden for the team that is why we are after our own,” he explained. According to Kibagendi they have already leveled and expanded the playing field into required measurements as well as goalposts. They have already conducted their first league match and training as well as friendly matches to build on the league. “Rule number one of international stadiums is playing field and that is where we kicked off as we now have one of best playing surfaces countrywide,” braged Kibagendi. Upon its first phase completion, the stadium will be able to accommodate 2400 fans. But what are the standards which CAF and FIFA looks into before giving a go ahead to host such matches. According to a sports analyst Abdallah Harun who is also a surveyor, among the characteristics are having a good playing ground, a perimeter wall, changing rooms among others. “Of course the ample playing field of 100 meters length, security comes after that as well as player’s welfare,” he outlined. It is almost five months since the refurbishment kicked off but the activities are moving on a tortoise motion with Kibagendi citing CoronaVirus as the reason behind it. “Bandari FC is sponsored by a government entity(KPA) and that is why Corona guidelines are honoured completely”. This is a clear indication that even if Bandari could have been given a chance to play in the Confederations Cup they could be travelling to Nairobi to host their home matches after Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos County was banned by CAF. What does missing an international ground along the six Coastal counties mean in nurturing young talents? Football Kenya Federation Mombasa County youth representative who is also coaching Chaani Youth in Mombasa is crying for a quick stadium construction in the region especially Mombasa as it makes their work hard as they don’t get a feel of international soccer. Kyallo also stated the economic aspect of which people can benefit from visitors during an international event on the Coast. “We have been in the dark for the last 5 years as there is no international stadium, how many fans can accommodate to follow Bandari to Nairobi?” questioned the tactician. Mombasa is constructing the county stadium, Kwale also are in their course with Taita also trying to modernize Dawson Mwanyumba stadium but only time will tell if the coastarians will enjoy good stadiums before next general elections.

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