It's time for East Africa to grab the Afcon opportunity

Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga and Rashid Toha Freedon of South Sudan fight for ball posession during International Friendly match played at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on September 12, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Four years is not far away; in the blink of an eye and it’s here with us!

I’m talking about the 36th edition of the biggest football extravaganza in the continent of Africa, and that is Afcon 2027.

My upbeat mood is propelled by the fact that it is finally coming home to East Africa whose hub is Nairobi right here in our country Kenya...what a joy!

As a Kenyan football legend, God willing I will be content with my space on the stands having missed a lifetime opportunity to feature as a player in 1996 when Kenya forfeited their hosting rights to South Africa, something which I still believe greatly jeopardised my dream of playing in top leagues in Europe when I was actually at my peak. 

I would be wrong and very selfish if I proceeded further without congratulating the strong delegation that brought Afcon to East Africa for the first time led by our own Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba...We are greatly thankful!

Now my big question is, how ready are we as a country in terms of infrastructure and technical preparedness of our national team Harambee Stars? This question takes me back to the little time we have, which is four years before the tournament is staged. 

Kasarani and Nyayo Stadiums have both been banned by Fifa, and Harambee Stars has been blowing tepid and mostly cold.

This makes me hope we didn’t just place the bid knowing it would be thrown out of the window.  I want to be assured everything is in place and this game-changer tournament will go ahead as planned and be a success.

Regime-wise, the government in place had in their manifesto six stadia to be constructed across the country, and now the real urge has hit.  I want to see if this promise to Kenyans will be met within the next four years. If they can do three stadiums for me that will be a huge step towards the development of sports in the country.

Finally and hopefully, the tournament has come at a time when the hue-and-cry for change in football management in the country has been on most football lovers’ lips, and this should give the voting delegates a chance to choose wisely football leaders who will grace goodwill to our dwindling fortunes in football come February 2024...the power of changing our football for better is in our hands as delegates. Good vote, Good tournament, Great future!

Matthew Ottamax is a former Harambee Stars goalkeeper