The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: So How Soon Can Kenya Host an English Premier League Side?

opinion

On Wednesday evening I was subjected to watching Manchester United play against Amazulu of the PSL in Durban during their South Africa tour. I must say it was rather refreshing watching the first bit of top class football since the Euros ended although I confess I went to sleep at half time. I appreciated it none the less. I do have to answer to those annoying Arsenal fans who questioned my loyalty to the Gunners because I was watching a Man U game. What? I love the football game as a whole and even though I am a Gooner, only a fool would deny that the Red Devils play well. It was a rather depleted team though but it was impressive to see Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Chicharito and the likes playing on African soil.

My highlight of the half I watched was Dimitar Berbatov's antics. I feel sad for him though; that he's in a club that doesn't need him and yet he is such a special player. He deserves regular football with that kind of talent. No I am not defecting to United; I am just appreciating good talent. One conversation that kept coming up on twitter is why Kenya cannot host an English Premier League side. South Africa is playing host to United until Sunday; not to mention that this isn't United's first trip there and they have in the past hosted teams like Manchester City and Tottenham I believe.

Arsenal meanwhile are heading to Nigeria in two weeks time as well, as part of their pre season tour. Na Kenya jo? Apparently it would cost about Sh120 to 200m shillings to bring one Premier League side on a tour to Kenya. I know because former Arsenal manager Terry Neill had opened up discussions a few years ago to get Arsenal on a tour of Kenya. Unfortunately the money would have to be recovered somehow and big corporates just weren't seeing where their returns would come from.

For starters the trips are so short that sponsors would not get value for money; and knowing football fans in this country, you wouldn't want to pay top dollar to see them, would you? And by top dollar I estimate what World Cup match tickets go for. I remember buying my match ticket for Cameroon Vs Denmark in 2010 for approximately Sh7,800 off the FIFA website; while a match ticket for Ivory Coast Vs Brazil, went for Sh11,000; for just the 90 minute game. But it was worth it! Those are the figures we're talking about when we whine about international teams coming to play here.

However I do believe the government should get involved in projects like this and weather the cost. The inspirational impact of Premier League teams coming to your country is unbelievable; and if organised well, the value would be seen; not in cash, but in legacy. I believe it can be done and I would like to see any top side coming to Kenya within the next couple of years.

On to regional football that I have been enjoying to a T. The Cecafa Kagame Cup has been going on and shock on all of us, the favourites - Simba and Yanga - suffered in the opening weekend. I am writing this before Tusker play her opening game against Mafunzo of Zanzibar; but by the time you read this, that game will be long over. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a great performance from Sammy Omollo's side. Yes, they Can!

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