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Why Harambee Starlets will play Malawi behind closed doors

Last updated 10 months ago | By Rodgers Eshitemi

Harambee Starlets' Wendy Achieng [Courtesy]

The ripple effect of lack of enough standardised stadiums in the country is beginning to be felt.

As early as this weekend, Kenya national women’s football team Harambee Starlets will feel it first-hand when they clash with Malawi in the return leg fixture of the 2020 Olympics Qualifiers.

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The match, which is slated for Sunday, was initially supposed to be at Kasarani Stadium but has been moved to Kenyatta Stadium, in Machakos due to the unavailability of Kasarani, Kenya’s largest sporting facility.

Since Kenyatta Stadium had been banned by Confederation of African Football (CAF) from hosting any international match, they have temporarily approved the venue, but on condition that the match is played behind closed doors.

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This means Starlets, who begin their Olympics qualifiers campaign today away in Blantyre, will miss the support of their fans in Machakos.

The winners on aggregate in the two-legged tie will face either Gabon or Ghana in the next round.

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Record Kenyan champions Gor Mahia were also scheduled to host their last Sunday’s Champions League preliminary round first leg tie in Machakos, but Sports Kenya allowed them to host it at Kasarani.

Domestic Cup champions Bandari have shifted their Confederation Cup matches to Kasarani due to lack of standardised stadiums in Mombasa.

“Concerning the request received on August 1, 2019 in order to temporarily use Machakos Stadium for the matches involving Gor Mahia FC (CAF CL Preliminaries) on August 24-25, 2019 and the Senior National Women Team (Olympics Qualifiers) on September 1, 2019, please note that CAF decided to approve your request,” read part of a letter sent to Football Kenya Federation from CAF.

“However, due to the fact that the stadium is not an approved stadium, please note that both matches must be played behind closed doors.”

With the prolonged closure of Nyayo National Stadium due to the delays in renovations, Kasarani remains as the only venue in Kenya that meets the required standards to stage an international match.

Just like Nyayo, the other four facilities; Kinoru Stadium in Meru, Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret and Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos, which had been earmarked for refurbishment by the government two years ago, are yet to be upgraded to the international standards as required by CAF and Fifa.

The 2019/2020 Kenyan Premier League season, which kicks off on Friday, is also facing the same problem with most of the Nairobi-based teams lacking venues to host their home matches.

“It is going to be very expensive for most of the Nairobi-based clubs to host their home matches,” said KPL CEO Jack Oguda.