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Shame for Kenya to host matches in foreign land



 Harambee Stars defender Alphonse Omija dribbles past Simon Adingra of Ivory Coast during their 2026 World Cup Qualifiers match at Bingu National Stadium, Lilongwe on June 11 2024. [FKF Media] 

It is shameful that for the first time in years, the national football team Harambee Stars had to host their 2026 World Cup Qualifiers in Lilongwe, Malawi due to a lack of Fifa-approved facilities here.

The irony is that while Kenya is known globally for its sporting prowess, there are no proper stadiums for athletes to train or stage international events. The two biggest stadiums, Kasarani and Nyayo have been closed for renovations in readiness for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations to be co-hosted by Uganda and Tanzania.

This decision had some implications on the team’s performance as they sluggishly dropped four points after drawing against Burundi (1-1) and African Champions Ivory Coast (0-0) at Bingu National Stadium.

In these matches, Harambee Stars would have achieved their minimum points if they had a home advantage with full backing from their fans. The Michael Olunga-led side needed the 12th man to push them to the finish line.

Consequently, on the Group F standings Kenya dropped to fourth spot after their rivals Gabon and Burundi secured wins. With the national junior women’s team on verge of a historic ticket to the 2024 U17 World Cup final in the Dominican Republic, the girls should be already getting used to playing in standardised stadiums. The situation is dire to the extent that even FKF Premier League clubs are struggling to host league matches. 

While Kasarani, which was shut down in December 2023 and will be in-accessible close to a year, Nyayo has been opening doors once in a while as renovations continue. On the other hand, the new 60,000-seater Talanta Sports City Stadium whose construction started in March 2024 is set to be completed in December 2025.

Although all efforts have been put in place with a sizeable amount of the proposed allocation of Sh16.5 billion to the Sports Fund in the 2024/2025 budget that was read by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u on Thursday set to facilitate the construction and upgrading of the stadiums to meet international standards, the government and Football Kenya Federation owe Kenyans an apology.

Apart from depriving football fans of their rights to cheer their teams and spur the economy by providing business opportunities to entrepreneurs and the tourism sector, Harambee Stars players looked uncomfortable as their Malawian venue was simply neutral for both teams.

With the World Cup Qualifiers campaign resuming in March 2025, and the 2025 Afcon Qualifiers beginning in September, Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba and his team need to put all hands on deck to ensure at least one stadium is ready to stage these matches. For the love of the game, it cannot be business as usual. 

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