The sorry state of Mombasa Stadium

Monday, June 5th, 2023 08:30 | By
Mombasa Stadium
Mombasa Stadium. PHOTO/Harrison Kivisu

When Kenya missed the golden opportunity to host the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 1996 due to lack of international stadia that meet international standards, South Africa was only too eager to serve as a replacement.

 In Kenya’s case, it seems there were no lessons learned in the lost chance to market the country as a tourist destination.

In 2018, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) further strapped Kenya of the rights to host African Nations Championship (CHAN) due to the same reasons.

Consequently, In June 2019, Kenya Premier League side Bandari Fc were forced to play their CAF Confederation Cup matches outside their backyard in Mombasa as the Mombasa Municipal Stadium where they would have ordinarily played was in a deplorable state.

The curse still haunts a majority of Mombasa community football clubs which have been left with very few playgrounds, while the existing ones are within learning institutions and are equally in a state of disrepair. And as Kenya expresses commitment to host the 2027 AFCON tournament jointly with Uganda and Tanzania, the condition of ‘unfit and substandard’ football pitches remains a grave concern which needs to be addressed urgently.

However, it seems there is light at the end of the tunnel, after President William Ruto announced that the government will do everything in its parameters to ensure Kenya wins the bid to host the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations, alongside her neighboring countries. A single nation bidding to host the AFCON ought to have six A-classified stadiums as approved by CAF. Further, two stadiums should at least have 40,000 sitting capacity, two for 20,000 fans and two for 15,000.

“We have an uphill task, because we must ensure we have two pitches that can accommodate over 40,000 spectators. We need five star hotels and high standard hospitals to ensure we win this bid,” said Bandari FC coach Twahir Muhiddin.

“We have witnessed the president has a good will to build sports complexes, we are optimistic that there will be something to celebrate about,” remarked Muhiddin.

With serious backing, other stadiums in Tanzania including Azam Complex, CCM Kirumba Stadium in Mwanza and Uhuru Stadium in Dar-es-Salaam can host such competitions

The same cannot be said of Uganda and Kenya, who at the moment are reeling in poor facilities to the point of CAF failing to give a nod to host an international event.

Granted, Mombasa, due to its stature of having a good number five star hotels coupled with its close proximity to Tanzania Capital, can host some of the matches.

Unfortunately, Kenya’s second biggest city after Nairobi does not fill the bill as it has no stadiums that meet international standards.

Mombasa stadium, a sizable ground that played host to CECAFA in the 80’s, is a pale shadow of its former self and has become a breeding ground of rodents and reptiles due to overgrown bushes and grass.

The stadium was given a minor face lift in 2013 before the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup that Kenya hosted.

 The quarter-final matches pitting Harambee stars, Uganda Cranes, Amavubi of Rwanda and Taifa Tanzania’s Taifa Stars were played at the facility before the rot that has not been addressed to date.

 In Mombasa, a number of grounds have been grabbed while others have been encroached by buildings and left unfit to host international competitions.

 The formerly Municipal Stadium, which is now in a sorry state of affairs, remains closed for rehabilitation and cannot host any international matches in its current state.

 Mombasa county sports executive Kennedy Ambani said some of the facilities have been shut including the seven aside Uwanja Wa Mbuzi and Changamwe Bomu grounds to pave way for renovation.

 “We know the Municipal stadium has remained shut, but plans are underway with collaboration with the central government to revive it and make it useful for training,” said Ambani.

 Seasoned coach Arif Baghazal said that 10 community clubs in Mombasa have no ground to train and have no resources to pay for private clubs.

 “Although we don’t have enough grounds, we are determined to nurture our natural talents, we are anticipating that more talents will be nurtured during the Safaricom sponsored Chapa Dimba tournament,”Ambani added.

 Tracing back history in the early 90’s, Mombasa County lost most of its playing grounds to private developers who have now erected buildings for commercial purposes.

 For instance, Makupa primary school playing ground was used to construct a secondary School and the pitch has been squeezed to a five aside size.

 In Uganda, Mandela National Stadium, Namboole is said to be undergoing renovation while it’s not sure whether Nakivubo Stadium will ever achieve international acceptance.

St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende, a privately owned facility. can only host continental games at club level, in the group stages.

 Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania boast the same in the different parts of the respective countries. On the same basis, East Africa particularly Uganda and Tanzania would easily pass the test as they enjoy relative peace.

 The 2027 AFCON will however take place months after the general elections in Uganda, but will happen the same year as the Kenya elections. It will be two years after Tanzania’s.

 Depending on the envisaged conditions pre and post elections in each or one of the trio of bidders, CAF could decide for or against awarding the rights.

 While each of the governments has supported the joint bid, practical support at every level of the planning is what the respective federations should be praying comes to fruition.

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