25 September 2017

Africa: Why Kenya Lost Rights to Host 16-Nation Africa Soccer Contest

Photo: Phoebe Okall/Nation
Construction workers at the Kinoru stadium in Meru last week. The stadium was one of five others chosen to host the African Nations Championship (CHAN) games but Kenya was at the weekend stripped of her rights to manage the event, which will start in January. African football chiefs said Kenya was not prepared for the 16-nation showpiece because the stadiums are incomplete.

Failure to construct five stadia and the heated political climate in the country are the main reasons Kenya was stripped of the right to host the African Nations Championships early next year.

The Confederation of African Football, (CAF) while announcing the decision on Saturday, also harshly indicted Kenyan sport officials for lying about the state of the country's preparedness to host the prestigious 16-nation showpiece.

"Kenyan officials weren't truthful," said CAF President Ahmad Ahmad in Accra Ghana, when he read out the decision in the presence of Football Kenya Federation President Nick Mwendwa, Sports Permanent Secretary Kirimi Kaberia and event director Herbert Mwachiro.

CAF inspectors had found that the five stadia earmarked for hosting the competition were only 20 per cent ready, meaning that it would be practically impossible to have them ready before December 1, the date when the venues were to be officially handed over to the organisers.

KASARANI

The five stadia are the Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani, Nyayo National Stadium, Kinoru Stadium Meru, Kipchoge Keino Stadium, Eldoret and Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.

The federation is also said to have been deeply concerned about the security of the tournament's participants because of the current political temperature in the country and the uncertainties surrounding the fresh presidential election scheduled for October 26.

The news came as a disappointment across East Africa, a region that has never hosted any major continental football tournament save for Rwanda's success with last year's Chan tournament.

But for those who had been following Kenya's preparations keenly, CAF's decision came as no surprise.

"Yes we lost Chan. Bad day for Kenya. Now we continue the journey. Build stadia, develop youth, coaches and work harder. Losing Chan is a wake-up call," Mr Mwendwa posted on his Twitter account immediately after the announcement was made.

JUBILEE

The Jubilee administration will obviously bear a huge part of the blame for reneging on its promise to build the five stadia, a pledge it made in 2013 when it clinched power.

The decision to lock out Kenya from the championships was inspired by a visit by CAF officials two weeks ago, when they discovered that none of the facilities earmarked to host the tournament were anywhere near completion. And as a sign of official indifference to the championships, all governors under whose jurisdictions the stadia lie snubbed the inspection tour, save for Meru's Kiraitu Murungi.

The Football Kenya Federation (FKF) also failed to push the government to honour its part of the bargain.

"Had they committed to pressurising the government into action, hosting Chan would have been a reality," said local football analyst Arnold Kanyangonda. "FKF should have consulted widely, but it chose to go it alone. Pulling off such a thing is not easy. It requires participation from all stakeholders. They should take responsibility. Not the government. Because it is FKF's responsibility to spell out the CAF calendar and ensure that government falls in line with that. Mwendwa should resign," said Mr Sam Nyamweya, the former FKF chief.

KISUMU DROPPED

The decision to remove the Moi Stadium in Kisumu and Mbaraki stadium in Mombasa from the initial list of stadia agreed on to host the tournament was also questionable, especially after the two were replaced by Eldoret and Kinoru which lie in areas where football does not generate much interest.

"You cannot ignore Western Kenya in football matters and hope to succeed," said Mr Gerald Chege, a long-serving football administrator who was the chief executive officer in the initial 15-member Chan steering committee.

As the country awaits communication from CAF regarding sanctions, Mr Mwendwa now returns home to a growing list of football problems underpinned by Harambee Stars' fall in the Fifa world rankings from number 82 to 88 this month ahead of the 2019 Afcon qualifier against Ghana scheduled for Mach 23, 2018.

Nyayo Stadium was expected to consume Sh774 million, while Sh878 million had been set aside for Kinoru Stadium in Meru. The Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret and Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos were expected to gobble up Sh454 million and Sh878 million respectively.

An additional Sh919 million had been set aside for the laying of grass in all the five venues and their training pitches, maintenance and training, while Sh1.6 billion had been earmarked for integrated services such as access control, lighting, security systems and a public address system.

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