Kenya: Why Mombasa Stadium Can Feature in National Geographic

20 September 2019

When the prominent Shikelly family donated land to the Aga Khan Community to build a stadium in 1949 for their activities and in the process benefit the Coast community at large, they had very good intentions.

As expected, The Aga Khan put up a 10,000 capacity multipurpose facility called the Aga Khan Community Stadium, which they used for close to five years then leased the facility to Council of Mombasa in 1955.

The facility was thereafter renamed Mombasa Municipal stadium.

There was a mutual understanding that the lease would last 99 years and the council would maintain the facility on behalf of the community.

But since the lease was granted, little was done to the stadium to attract more clients and generate revenue for the council to enable it maintain the facility.

They did not know that what they thought would change the lives of the people in and around Mombasa would end up getting neglected.

The municipal stadium, now called Mombasa County Stadium, has become a breeding ground for dangerous reptiles like snakes that have taken advantage of the overgrown vegetation on the pitch.

Despite Mombasa being the second largest city in Kenya and a major tourist destination, it now has no functioning stadium worth mentioning.

Mombasa has not been able to host any international football match because the Mombasa County Stadium is unusable.

Kenyan Premier League side, Bandari, that is currently the country's flag bearers in the Caf Confederation Cup have been forced to use the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani in Nairobi as their home ground instead of playing in Mombasa where they are based.

Neglect is written all over the facility that was closed for renovation in 2013.

To be precise, the stadium, which is the only sports facility within the municipality, which hosts various activities, was left to the dogs.

The drainage system at the stadium collapsed long time ago while the outside is surrounded by illegal structures housing food kiosks, sand harvesting dealers and carpenters, among other traders.

The stadium perimeter wall is tethering on collapse and is a real disaster in waiting.

The toilets and dressing rooms were given a minor face lift in 2013 before the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup that Kenya hosted. The quarter-final matches were played at the facility before it went back to being idle.

The football fraternity in Mombasa has patiently waited to have a world-class stadium after countless promises from the County Government of Mombasa.

Rajab Babu, the Chief Officer in charge of sports at Mombasa County, has been doing a lot of public relations with the facility, repeatedly promising that work is about to start as late as last week when he told this writer that a Turkish firm would be in Mombasa on September 16, for the official launch of the construction work at the facility. No launch took place.

According to Babu, the government was to spend Sh61 million on the renovation of Mombasa County Stadium, work which started well with the levelling of the ground in preparation for the laying of a tartan running track and natural grass playing surface.

Babu says they stopped the work when they realised the contractor was planting Kikuyu grass instead of the Arabica grass that they had agreed on.

"Of the Sh61 million, which was meant for civil work, laying of the track and the pitch, we only paid the contractor Sh39 million for the work he did meaning we still have a balance of Sh22 million which is value for money for the remaining work.

Babu, a Brazil-trained football coach and current Harambee Sand Stars head coach, now says the entire stadium will be brought down and a brand new facility erected.

The project will cost Sh1.7 billion and take a year to be completed.

"The new contractors have completed the geotechnical survey on the facility meaning work start anytime now as we target to expand the sitting capacity to 12,500," Babu said during an interview in his office.

The county official said the new look stadium will have four changing rooms, separate changing rooms for men and women referees, multipurpose arena for basketball, netball, futsal and volleyball, as well as a standard 50m swimming pool and a restaurant that will accommodate 790 persons.

The stadium will also have a fully furnished media centre that will rival the best in the world.

In 2013, the central government put aside Sh29 million for the renovation work at the stadium, but nothing much was done forcing the then Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba to summarily sack the contractor.

Whether Mombasa residents will soon see a brand new international class stadium built soon remains to be seen.

What is plain to see is the neglect of the Mombasa County Stadium that has become a wild ecosystem fit to feature in National Geographic.

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