Virtually every month or so, a high ranking Kenyan official declares plans by Kenya to host a major international tournament. One of the first things sports Minister Hassan Wario did when he assumed office was declare that Kenya would bid to host the 2019 world athletics championships. Wario seemed to think that the fact that Kenya was an athletics powerhouse was reason enough for IAAF to award Kenya hosting rights.
Sam Nyamweya’s announcement that Kenya would bid to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations was rightly laughed off by most football pundits. Kenya had initially been awarded hosting rights for the 1996 Africa cup of Nations. This was contingent upon constructing a new stadium in Mombasa. But the rights were taken away because the Moi government refused to disburse the funds needed to build a new stadium in Mombasa. They had initially promised to do so.
No stadium has since been built so what made Nyamweya think that CAF would award Kenya hosting rights especially after the 1996 debacle ?
The real reason that the Moi-government refused to build the stadium in Mombasa was because the KFF Chairman at the time was Joab Omino who was an opposition member of parliament. Moi was afraid that if Kenya succesfully hosted the tournament, the opposition would get all the credit. So he declined to build the stadium. Because of his recalcitrance, Kenya was banned from both the 1996 and 1998 Africa cup of Nations. Thus a talented generation of Kenya players like Musa Otieno, Allan Odhiambo, Vincent Kwarula, Paul Were, Tom Odhiambo, Kennedy Simiyu, John Odhiambo, Francis Onyiso, Tom Ogweno, John Luchuku and all the other Fabisch boys who excited Kenyans in 1996 missed out on an opportunity to showcase their skills to European scouts.
CAF did not take Kenya’s bid for the 2019 tournament seriously. But they ended up giving Kenya hosting rights for the 2019 CHAN tournament. This is a lesser tournament that features only players based in African leagues. Nevertheless considering the chaos that ensued when Kenya hosted the 2013 CECAFA cup, there is a danger that Kenya will once again be embarasse but this time it will be on a continental scale.
A look at Zambia’s new stadia
Zambia has recently completed the construction of two new ultra modern stadium. They are the 60,000 seat Heroes National stadium and the 45,000 seat Levy Mwanawasa. stadium. Construction of the two stadia was completed in 2013 and 2011 respectively. It comes as no surprise therefore that Zambia’s bid for the 2019 Africa Nations cup will be taken seriously while Kenya’s bid is dismissed as a joke worthy of the Vitimbi sitcom.
One of the promises of the Jubilee coalition during the elections was that they would build 5 new stadia. This is typical of the empty promises that politicians usually give. But one can only hope that there will be at least one new stadium built in Kenya in the next few years. Note that almost all the stadia used in Kenya including the rugby grounds were built by the colonial governments. In 51 years of Independence, Kenyan governments have only seen it fit to build two stadia : Kasarani and Nyayo.
A new stadium built in a stadium like Mombasa would make Kenya’s bid to host a leg of the IRB sevens series more realistic because the IRB prefers to hold tournaments at sea level. This puts Nairobi with its 1600m altitude at a huge disadvantage.
Such a stadium would also make a bid to host the Africa cup of nations more realistic. The attendant financial benefits that come with hosting such tournaments is huge. They also are a significant boost to tourism.
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