By Kenn Okaka
I watched with utmost disappointment state of the playing field at at Meru County’s Kinoru Stadium during the recent build up match between former Kenyan Premier League champions Ulinzi Stars and Al Azizia FC.
The grass turf looks nothing but neglected. I am disappointed that this is one f the stadiums that Kenya has over the years earmarked as one of the international stadiums that should be used to host matches of the stature of international level but nothing international is maintained at the stadium.
In throwing the ball to where it ought be rolled, Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza should move with speed to not only put up measures of maintaining the stadium, but as well, finish the remaining areas of construction in the Kinoru stadium.
Kinoru stadium was renovated at a cost of Sh 915 million but the end product is a substandard stadium which cannot host any FIFA accredited matches as Kenya continues to feel the pain of a dire lack of sports stadia.
When Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba made an inspection tour of the stadium in December 2022, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the work done at the stadium and ordered for an audit to determine the extent of work done at the facility.
He expressed disappointment in the quality of various finishes, the tartan track which is already damaged and the playing turf which is uneven and had poor quality wild grass.
While an audit is important, the stadium as it stands today need to be completed and the grass should be well maintained. The substandard grass, from the Ulinzi match gave a picture of a playing turf which is not only uneven but also has not been well watered as looks weathered and drying up; this as Governor Kawira Mwangaza looks on.
I would wish to urge the Governor to move to complete the stadium which seems to be suffering from the traditional Kenyan bad politics where projects began by one political leader are never completed once there is transition and a different leader assumes power.
This stadium has been constructed over a long period of time. It was first began during the regime of Meru’s first Governor Peter Munya and stalled when Munya lost the governorship to Kiraitu Murungi. The construction works at the stadium would be resumed later under Kiraitu but again, after he lost to Mwangaza, work stalled again and it is Mwangaza, who has the honours to now rise above political intrigues to finally complete the little areas that are pending on the stadium.
This stadium, which is historic, has gobbled up millions of tax payers’ money and at a cost of 915 million, it should be one of Kenya’s best stadiums which can host international matches, but it remains a shame.
Today, Kenya has no FIFA approved stadium. Over the last several years, millions of tax payers’ money has been put into building stadiums but none of the facilities now serve the intended purpose.
Last year, the Sports CS Namwamba received a report indicating that the stadium had been completed and contractor paid.
However, upon a visit to the stadium, he noted that the the irrigation system in the field is not reliable yet the stadium had been declared complete awaiting opening.
Kinoru was among the venues that had been selected to host the 2018 Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) matches before Kenya was stripped off the rights to host the continental tournament due to unpreparedness.
Toddy Civil Engineering Company was the stadium’s main contractor while Gregori International Company had initially been sub-contracted to do the turf.
“I have received a report indicating that Kinoru stadium is complete, and ready for use. I have inspected this stadium and I am deeply, thoroughly, unquestionably, unequivocally disappointed. When I look around this facility, I don’t see a billion shillings. If I had come to office before they were paid, I would not have paid, I would have stopped the payment. We must demand value for money,” Namwamba said.
Kenya faces a shortage of CAF-accredited stadiums and is bidding to co-host the 2027 African Nations Cup alongside Uganda and Tanzania. It is for this reason that I call on Governor Mwangaza to finalize the construction and provide her county with a chance to host AFCON matches, which will be a great marketing opportunity for the county as well as an opportunity to bolster business in the Mount Kenya region county, which is advantaged by the proximity of the Isiolo Airport, a requirement by FIFA and CAF, for any stadium hosting FIFA matches.
The National Government has committed to improve sports Stadia and Governor Kawira Mwangaza must act now and take advantage of the opportunity to improve Kinoru Stadium to host AFCON in 2027, when ironically, she will be seeking a second term as Governor.