Kenya: Death of Khayega Grounds Gives Birth to Criminal Gangs

13 August 2020

Every football ground in Kakamega County may claim to have produced star players, but the famous Khayega Sports Ground, home of many stars, is currently in a pathetic state.

The historic ground, where football was once played and watched with great enthusiasm, is also the home of most footballers from Western region who played for top clubs and the national team since the pre-independence period.

But since the popular facility, also known for hosting bull-fighting contests, was closed in 2016 for renovation, the area has witnessed the worst years of increased crime and other illegal activities. The prime hours for youth-related violence and crime are from 8pm to mid-night, and even on weekends when alcohol and drugs abuse is rampant.

The ground, which also produced several women footballers, including Harambee Starlets aces Jentrix Shikangwa and Cynthia Shilwatso, is fast being encroached by private developers.

The community here is still waiting for Sh5 million promised by the Kakamega County Government for the ground's rehabilitation, a process that was to begin after a survey to determine the boundaries of the field.

Community teams and schools around who would use the ground for their home matches have since been forced to travel long distances to look for an alternative ground.

Most players who succeeded at youth level during school games originating from this area went on to play for top clubs in the top leagues.

According to a grassroots volunteer, Gregory Likabo M'mboyi, sports was one of the most effective means of managing the young people, but the crime rate has increased because most of the youth are idle as the facility is reduced into a parking lot.

Another volunteer, Richard Kwemba says many matches played on this pitch motivated and developed skills and attitudes that kept the youth away from violent behaviours.

Huge rise in crime

"The tournaments contributed immensely to promoting peaceful environment, making communities around a safer place even at night, but today we are only seeing a huge rise in crime," added another grassroots tactician Davies Ingoi Imbayi now coaching Titanic FC.

Football administrator Fred Likuyani of Khayega Leeds said if rehabilitated, the ground will play a major role in the development of clubs within Shinyalu which have since been left struggling to host their matches.

They include Biafra FC, Luheni, Lugose, Khayega Rangers, Kuka FC, Shidodo, Shotochi, Museno Sambakhalu, Yanga, Liverpool, Yang, Poison and Silver Strikers.

Area Member of County Assembly (MCA), Farouk Machanje has, meanwhile, thanked the county surveyors, led by Ezekiel Nandwa, who gave the report on the field's boundaries.

"It has been our prayer to see this field being rehabilitated and restored back to great standards as we aim to invest in sporting activities that will engage our youth who are facing challenges of unemployment forcing them to engage in crime," he said.

Former international Nick Yakhama, who also nurtured his skills at Khayega, said this is a step in the right direction.

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