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Lack of stadia puts FKF bosses under pressure

FOOTBALL By Rodgers Eshitemi | May 17th 2021
FKF president Nick Mwendwa during an interview with The Standard on April 07, 2021. [Collins Kweyu, The Standard]

The unavailability of Kasarani and Nyayo Stadiums is giving FKF Premier League bosses sleepless nights.

Initially, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) had earmarked the two largest sporting facilities in the country as venues for the league which resumed on Friday (May 14) after almost a seven-week break.

But according to Sports Kenya Director General Pius Metto, Kasarani (Main and Annex) will be inaccessible for at least four months as it is being used as a bubble camp for Team Kenya preparing for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Apart from acting as a bubble camp for the Olympic team whose first batch departs for Japan on July 5, Kasarani is scheduled to host the IAAF World U20 Championships on August 17-22.

He further said that they are still in discussions with the Ministry of Sports on the availability of Nyayo Stadium.

“Kasarani is locked for Olympics preparations. It is a bubble camp for Team Kenya and we are not allowing any other activities in the facility. In essence, the facility is inaccessible until after the World U20 Championships in August. That means, the FKF Premier League organisers will have to look for somewhere else to host their matches,” Metto told Standard Sports.

Asked about Nyayo’s availability, the official simply said: “I don’t want to comment about Nyayo Stadium because the facility was not supposed to host local games. But all the same we are still having a discussion with the Ministry and we will update them.

“I have actually guided the federation and therefore they are seeking clearance and how to use the facility. And that’s why I don’t want to comment further on the matter.”

Gor Mahia FC's Michael Apudo and Yousef Bechou of CR Belouizdad during the second leg CAF Champions League match at Nyayo National stadium on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, The Standard]

The league and other sporting activities in the country were suspended for the second time by the government on March 26 due to the surge in Covid-19 infections. The directive came just when the league was taking shape with each team having played at least 14 matches .

And with the unavailability of the two largest sporting facilities in the country, the federation has been forced to relook for other alternative venues (Narok, World Hope, Utalii and Ruaraka Grounds) for Nairobi-based teams in this congested window that is set to conclude on July 14 two weeks after the deadline of submitting the league winners’ name to CAF (Champions League).

Friday saw Kariobangi Sharks beat Kakamega Homeboyz 1-0 at Utalii in their first restart match before Ruaraka, which had been banned from hosting league matches staged a double header the following day (AFC Leopards 1-0 Nzoia Sugar and Tusker 0-0).  Gor Mahia also overcame Nairobi City Stars 1-0 at Utalii yesterday while Mathare United drew 0-0 with Vihiga United at Ruaraka.

Machakos Stadium which used to host matches involving most of the Nairobi-based clubs has not staged a league game since it was converted to a Covid-19 Centre last year.

While FKF president Nick Mwendwa says they have no option but to continue playing, he feels the poor state of the venues that has been worsened by the rains will affect the quality of the game.

“Football is under pressure after we were denied hosting the matches at Kasarani and Nyayo. We have been told none of the stadiums is available for us so we will have to make do with the venues we have,” said Mwendwa.

“The other pitches will have a great impact on our game in terms of TV production and players’ output. It will be expensive to take the matches outside Nairobi.”

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