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Kenyans feel the heat as sports events are postponed

Gor Mahia FC fans cheer their team against USM Alger FC during their CAF Confederation Cup match at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi Kenya on May 16, 2018. The match ended in a barren draw. [Stafford Ondego/Standard]

The coronavirus outbreak has hit Kenyan sports after the country reported its first case of the virus yesterday.

According to the World Health Organisation, the virus which exploded in China’s Wuhan city, has so far claimed over 4,900 lives with more than 132,000 people infected globally.

And following the Ministry of Health’s ban on public gatherings as a precautionary measure after the virus was confirmed on a 27-year old Kenyan who traveled to Kenya from the United States via London, several federations led by Football Kenya Federation, Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) and Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) have adhered to the directive by postponing their activities.

In a statement, the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K), urged its affiliates and the sports fraternity to adhere to the government’s prescribed steps in containing the virus.

“While most qualification events have been suspended due to the epidemic, NOC-K is in close contact with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ensure that the athletes are given a fair opportunity to participate in this year’s Olympic Games,” said NOC-K acting Secretary General Francis Mutuku.

Though FKF have indefinitely suspended the Kenyan Premier League, all grass-root football competitions and women leagues due to the concerns regarding the virus, this weekend’s FKF Betway Cup and National Super League matches will go on as planned, behind closed doors but will remain suspended indefinitely from March 16.

“As a precautionary measure, there will be no pre- and post-match handshakes in the said fixtures and fans will not be allowed in and around the stadium,” read part of FKF statement signed by CEO Barry Otieno.

“Further, FKF advises all clubs, both at the national and grass-root level to cancel and/or suspend non-essential activities that include but are not limited to open training sessions, unplanned fan engagements and unnecessary team travels.”

Four of the eight scheduled Cup fixtures will be staged at Afraha Stadium with holders Bandari taking on Sofapaka in Mombasa today.

The highlight of the weekend will be today’s 3.30pm encounter between record Kenyan champions Gor Mahia and Posta Rangers in Nakuru followed by tomorrow’s tie pitting ten-time domestic cup winners AFC Leopards against Ushuru at the same venue.

But KCB, who were slated to face Wazito have pulled out.

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) have also indefinitely suspended the 2021 Afcon qualifiers which had been scheduled for March 25-31.

This means the two-legged match between Harambee Stars and Comoros will be played on a yet-to-be confirmed date.

“Caf has decided to postpone the Total Africa Cup of Nations 2021 Qualifiers, scheduled from 25 to 31 March 2020,” read part of Caf’s statement.

FKF had asked for the match to be postponed.

Black Blad's Kelvin Nyausi penetrate into KCB zone during Enterprise Cup match at KCB Grounds at Ruaraka on Saturday March 7. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

In rugby, KRU’s indefinite suspension of the 2019/2020 season has affected today’s Kenya Cup quarterfinals as well as KRU Championship, Nationwide leagues and the Eric Shirley Shield.

Impala were to take on Mwamba in a Kenya Cup quarterfinals tie as Homeboyz face Menengai Oilers at Impala Club today.

“In light of ongoing developments resulting from the announcement of an active COVID 19 case in the country, and the directive from the Health Ministry that, among other things, bans public gatherings, the Kenya Rugby Union is announcing the suspension of the 2019-20 season,” KRU said in a statement.

The Enterprise Cup and Mwamba Cup competitions were supposed to enter the semi-finals stage next month.

The Rugby Africa Under-20 championship which was to be held in Kenya next month has also been postponed indefinitely as well as the 2020 Women’s World Cup qualifier match between Kenya Lionesses and Colombia.

The Lionesses will also not travel to Stellenbosch, South Africa for the Women’s World Sevens Challenger Series following the postponement of the tournament.

The event, which doubles up as a qualifier for the 2020-21 World Women’s Sevens Series, was initially scheduled for March 28 and 29.

Just like FKF and KRU, KVF has also taken precautionary measures by calling off the second leg of the national league which was to be held from March 27 to 29 in Kisumu.

“In view of the latest announcement by the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health on the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the country, the forthcoming National League/tournament scheduled for the last weekend of this month in Kisumu has be postponed indefinitely,” said KVF President Waithaka Kioni.


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